How to Test Saved Garden Seeds

February 17, 2021 Updated: February 17, 2021

Q: I saved seeds from several of my garden plants last year, including pumpkins, peppers, and peas. I want to store more again this fall, but I wanted to start with a few and see how they worked. Besides just planting them and seeing what comes up, how can I be sure the seeds are still good?

A: Congratulations, you are becoming a better gardener by growing your own crops. You started with some good, easy-to-collect seeds that should grow well this year. Collecting seeds is easy; the hard part for many gardeners is keeping them over the winter. The seeds may be tiny, but they are alive. They can die quickly if they dry out.

The best thing to do after they have been collected, cleaned, and dried off is to store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. A glass jar or sealed plastic container is better than a plastic bag.

To determine how well they are going to grow this summer, you can do a test. Take them out of the refrigerator, and let them warm up in a humid place. After a few days, place a few seeds of each kind on a wet paper towel. Cover them with a wet paper towel, and make sure the towels don’t dry out for a week. Then see how many have begun to sprout.

If most are starting to grow, you can figure that when you plant them in the garden, most will grow. If only a few start to sprout, you can double them up by planting more than one seed in each location and then thin them out later, if you get more than one growing. If very few sprout, then you should probably buy new seeds.

If you collected the seeds from hybrids, your plants will probably not look or taste like the parent plants you collected the seeds from. If you collected seeds from older heirloom varieties, then they should be the same.

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If you need to buy new seeds, I recommend checking out the following vegetable garden seed companies.

The Chas. C. Hart Seed Co. is one of the few garden seed companies that understands the difference between seeds that are genetically modified organisms and seeds that are genetically engineered. This company has been around for over 125 years and is an excellent source of garden seeds. If your charitable organization needs vegetable garden seeds, this is the company to contact at HartSeed.com.

The Baker Creek catalog has over 1,500 vegetable seeds. Jere Gettle and his wife, Emilee, publish the Heirloom Gardener magazine and “The Heirloom Life Gardener” book. For more information, check out RareSeeds.com.

Renee’s Garden has garden-tested and taste-tested heirloom and gourmet vegetables, flowers, and herbs. Her seed packets are very detailed, and Renee personally grows every plant variety before it is offered in the catalog. Find her catalog and cookbook at ReneesGarden.com.

The Harris Seeds catalog has a good selection of vegetables, plus flowers and tools. Find them at HarrisSeeds.com.

The Territorial Seed Co. catalog has a large assortment of vegetable seeds, and they have potato, garlic, and onion plants. Find them at TerritorialSeed.com.

The Totally Tomatoes catalog may not be completely tomatoes, but it is close. Check it out at TotallyTomato.com.

If you want to find new garden catalogs, check out the Direct Gardening Association website. They have a list of companies and describe the products they carry.

Email questions to Jeff Rugg at info@greenerview.com. To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at Creators.com. Copyright 2021 Jeff Rugg. Distributed by Creators Syndicate.