being the collected handouts from classes David King teaches at UCLA Extension and elsewhere...
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Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Seed Viability Charts
There are various simple tests for viability. One is to dampen a plain white paper towel and fold it in half, place a few seeds on one half of the towel and fold it in half again over the seeds, enclose it in a zip lock sandwich bag and place it in an environment appropriate to the seed's germination requirements (light, dark, warm, cool, etc.). After a week or so, check to see if any sprouts have appeared. Usually, for large tests, make 10 rows of 10 seeds. All that germinate will give you the percentage of viability.
Carol Deppe - one of my seed saving/seed starting heroes - says the only thing she learned from seed viability charts was that onions barely last a season and everyone disagrees about all the other life expectancy figures. Sometimes wildly. If your project is very important, do a seed germination tests - we call them "germ tests" for short.
Some seeds, such as peas, can be tested for viability by placing them in a bowl of water. Those that float are sterile (contain no embryo and are therefore lighter); those that sink are likely to be viable.