How to Test Older Seeds For the Garden


Do you have left-over seeds from previous years and you want to know if they will still grow if planted? You can test their viability (whether the seed is alive) at home!

We have lots of seed recycled from year to year at the Garden Patch, including donated seed. We are currently testing some of our batches of seed to determine whether we should plant them, and in what amount. You can do this at home too - it's easy. It's a fun activity that kids enjoy too: watching a seed come to life!


All you need is:

Paper towel

A small container such as a left-over yoghurt container or a plastic bag


The seed you want to test

What to do :


  • Lightly moisten a paper towel. Then, fold it in half.
  • Place 10 seeds on the paper towel. Then, fold the towel in half again to cover up the seeds.
  • Stick the paper towel in a plastic sandwich bag or small contai ner and seal.
  • Write the seed name and date on the bag. Then, store the bag in a warm spot (on top of the refrigerator works well).
  • Check the bag each day to see if any seeds have germinated and to remoisten the paper towel, as needed.
  • Continue checking the bag until you reach the germinationtime listed on your seed packet. This is important. Not all seeds germinate at the same time. When the seed has germinated, you will see a small root poking out of the seed (also known as the radicle): this is the seed coming to life!
  • Count how many seeds germinated. Use this to determine your percentage of viability. If, for example, 8 of your 10 seeds germinated, that would be an 80% viability.
  • If you decide to use your seeds, plant extra to account for seeds that aren't likely to germinate.



 Our Garden Patch seeds are starting to germinate (grow little tails), and we are have a better understanding about how many extra seeds we might need to plant of our older seed to get our desired density of plants.

There are several more ways to test viability of different seed, but a simple at home test such as this can tell you if your seeds are still alive, and how successful they will be when planted.

It's fun too!

Interested in knowing more about the Garden Patch? Check HERE.