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Testing Germination rates for seed savers

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Joined: 21 October 2012
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    Posted: 23 October 2012 at 12:58
We just started saving seeds a few years ago. Mostly tomatoes and peppers. This past year we painstakingly saved swiss chard too. I say painstakingly because the chard had sprung up from last year and sent up beautiful bolting with tons of seeds (okay not tons, but a lot). The problem was they weren't fully ripe until late in the season, so that's almost 2 years from beginning to end on growing chard and harvesting seeds. (Gardening space usually isn't used here for old plants and it's a space premium to let them mature.)

To test them to see what the germination rates are--10% or 50% or 90%, this is what I do.

I take 10 or 20 seeds, in a zip lock bag, with a wet down paper product-chemical free tp, papertowel or napkins, spread them out, place them over the warm air vent and watch to see how many days it takes to sprout and what percentage of seeds sprout.

With 2 cups of swiss chard seeds, I needed to know how useful these seed actually are for planting! I just started a batch and I'll update this post to report the germination rates.

I was amazed in one experiment (I call them that because I'm just learning), I tested tomato seeds from tomatoes I had dehydrated at 140 degrees F. I had excellent germination. Who would have thought that? Not I!

(as an aside: to see if garlic cloves will sprout, just put them in the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator and you'll see 99% of them developing sprouts by spring--a delicacy by Japanese standards to use in vegetable dishes)

I'm in the upper midwest, we plant garlic in October, gardens in May. FYI ~Feather

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 October 2012 at 15:25
Feather, most brassicas (basically, anything in the cabbage family) are bienials; that is, they leaf the first year, produce flowers and seeds the second year. So that's what happened with your chard. Exactly what would be expected.
 
This is precisely why few home gardeners save seed from cabbages, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and the like. They take up a lot of space, for two years, and you don't get to eat them.
 
There is a way to clone brassicas, too. If you're interested I'll post how to do it.
 
Your approach to germination testing is perfectly fine. Most seed savers (and all commerical seed suppliers) do their germination testing in hundred-count units. This is both to make the math easier, and to conform to federal germination-rate labeling rules.
 
I would recommend, if you haven't already, that you obtain a copy of Susanne Ashworth's Seed To Seed. This is the bible of seed saving, and should answer almost any question you might have.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Feather Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 October 2012 at 12:34
Sure, I'm open to learning more about cloning brassica seeds.

One of the reasons I'm on a forum talking about it is because I'm looking for real time experience.

My philosophy: [Books and Google searches are great--but I'm down-sizing my 'stuff' so I buy fewer and fewer books and google gets old kind of quickly for me after the first 30 or so results. My library needs to be reduced and not increased. There is so much information published on the internet as 'off the cuff' remarks and sometimes very little in terms of substance which can be trusted. I'm not sure sending forum members off to other resources will build a forum, more likely, the forum will become unnecessary (I've been and am a forum moderator in different areas.)  It's wonderful when you find 'friends' on a forum with similar interests and experience to share, and trust is built. That is my philosophy.]

I won't have to collect swiss chard seeds for any number of years if these are viable. My most collected seeds are tomatoes and peppers. I've had luck with parsley and cilantro as well.

I had wintered over some leeks and I was all set to collect seeds when I started reading about the 'giant leeks'. I thought, why grow regular leeks, let it take up so much space in two seasons--so now I'm going to buy some 'giant leek seeds'. I like trying new things and collecting those old things that worked for us here. Each climate area and soil type area has different things that work in those areas.

I'm not testing 100's of seeds, because this is just for my use, and maybe a few friends if they are interested.

Thanks for your post and I'm looking forward to cloning which you referred to. :) Feather
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 October 2012 at 19:27
I'm not testing 100's of seeds, because this is just for my use, and maybe a few friends if they are interested.

Well, sure. Nothing wrong with that at all. Your interest, as is true with many home gardeners, is simply---will this stuff grow next season.
 
Problem is, as you get more involved with seed saving you get led down the happy path of seed trading. Once that happens, if only for your own peace of mind, you want more precise statistical information.
 
I won't have to collect swiss chard seeds for any number of years if these are viable
 
Perhaps even longer than you think. Swiss chard seed remains viable, when stored in a cool, dark place, for six years.
 
But "viable" is a slippery word. The way it's defined, with seeds, is that at the end of the viability period, 50% or less of the seed will germinate. So, to bring in a crop with seed older than that, you merely overplant.
 
If you store properly dried seed in a freezer, however, viability isn't even an issue, because it stretches out to at least 40 years.
 
If you do freeze your seed, make sure the entire container is back up to room temperature before opening it. Otherwise, condensation will form on the seeds, and this could affect germination rates adversely.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Feather Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 October 2012 at 11:46
And here I am back here at germination rates a few days later.

My swiss chard, seeds from both containers that I harvested, come out at 80% germination. Waiting for them to go to seed this past year has turned out to be a good investment.

I love a good plan when it works! I will sprinkle some gently into the soil very early into the cold frame area (lasagna/lettuce garden) for next spring.

What I like best about swiss chard is that it is good, stemmed and torn in salads and also, cooked down like collards or kale. The best of both worlds.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 October 2012 at 03:46
Ya done good, kiddo!
Just for perspective, the Federal germination stadard for your chard is 75%.
 
 
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