Best way to germinate old seeds (no chemicals)?

angel_z5November 20, 2004

Does anyone know what the best method of germinating old seeds is (excluding using chemicals)? I have not studied this, but my experience has shown that the damp baggie method, works best for me. It seems to provide a very consistent environment for the seeds, and is easy to observe and monitor. But I am strictly an amateur and wonder how the pros would do it.


Always an. . .Angel

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It depends on the type of seed you are germinating.

Old tomato seed require very consistent temperatures of about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The only way I've been able to do this is to put them in an egg incubater and set the thermostat to the proper temp.

Some seed simply won't keep for long periods of time. Peppers for example are pretty much limited to about 5 years. I have germinated corn that had been stored in a freezer for 10 years. The germination was low but I got enough to save seed.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 12:03AM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)


Which specific seeds?

And how old are the seeds?

Old to some is not old to others. ( smile)


    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 1:15AM
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A few years ago, a friend in Russia sent me the following method (cant get much more organic than that):

>I soak seeds in a nutritive medium for about 1 hour, then wrap them up in a piece of lightly moist clean cotton cloth and place in an airtight container (a polythene bag for instance). I keep them warm and every other day open them to let the fresh air in and see how things are going. As soon as I notice that the seeds are starting to germinate (these tiny root tips showing), I plant them shallowly in moist soil mixture.
By nutritive medium I meant any water solution of nutritious elements, like potassium nitrate solution (10 gr of KNO 3 per 1 liter of water) or natrium gumate solution, or, better and I think even more efficient, filtered chicken litter extract (1 liter of fresh (or dried) chicken litter is drowned in 6 liters of boiling water, well-stirred and let brew for 3 days, then filtered and stored in a lidded container). >

I tried his method once I overcame my revulsion at brewing chicken litter and it DID work...
I bought some small metallized/disposable cake moulds at the supermarket and soaked the seeds for 1 hour. After that, I strained each mould and put the seeds on a small strip of moist kitchen towel which I folded over and put in a labelled plastic seed bag. I put all the seed bags in a large plastic bag which I placed under a 25W bulb. I checked every 2 day for germination.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 3:57AM
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reginak(z7 Maryland)


I'm relieved to see you here (big smile). I hope you're enjoying a nice lazy Sunday, pampering yourself.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 10:09AM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

I'm relieved to see you here (big smile). I hope you're enjoying a nice lazy Sunday, pampering yourself.


Here is not there. LOL

I said I wasn't going to post in the main tomato forum, and that's all.

And germinating old seeds is a special interest of mine. And that's why I asked the question above about seed age, since there's really no sense in doing extra steps unless there is no detectable viability or unless the germination rate is exceedingly low and seeds are rare, IMO.

But I'll wait to hear from the poster about seed age and which veggies.

Carolyn, who is not having a lazy afternoon. I finished putting away the newer seeds and now have to work out some system to file the new and old so I can start filling seed requests. It was easier last year when all seeds were in vials as opposed to this year when both new and old are in envelopes.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 12:43PM
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reginak(z7 Maryland)

Well, here is better than gone off GW altogether!

I don't understand the urgency about filling our seed requests, we won't be able to use the seeds until at least March, right?

Except ... speaking of which, I am proud to announce that I got my first COTYLEDONS. I discovered them last night after I'd given up on them, some days ago as you will recall, & was going to start again. 2 little Silvery Fir Tree sprouts, to overwinter in my kitchen. I've already gotten some advice on what to do next, especially considering I'll be away for Thanksgiving week but also reading past threads for more general info. Those Amazonian peppers are still sick with aphids but I haven't given up on them! I WILL have an indoor winter garden!

Sorry to hijack the thread. I'll stop now. (But at least it has something to do with germinating seeds, albeit not old ones).

    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 6:17PM
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Thanks for the replies. Well honestly, I read about some grain seeds that were discovered that were at least several thousand years old. It did not appear that anyone had tried to germinate them, though that would be suprising. I might try to make contact with the holder of the seeds and see what the story is. I would be interested in giving it a try! I do have access to humidity chambers and temperature chambers, if those would be needed.

I have heard that some very old bean seeds were recovered a few years ago and successfully grown.

Always an. . .Angel

    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 7:40PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)


Very old grain seeds have been found by archaeologists at many different sites around the world. I'm talking thousands of years old.

And yes folks who know what' they're doing have been brought in to try to germinate them. But grain seed is ver y susceptible to destruction by dampness and without doing a search, I don't believe anything found from thousands of years ago has ever been germinated.

Weed and herb seeds from a few hundred years ago, yes, many have been germimnated.

Bean seeds have also been found at archaerological sites and by private folks as well. The best known example is the Anazazi beans fr om the SW US. And yes, some of those have been germinated. Again, a few hundred years old.

The best documented oldest seeds germinated were lotus seeds found in a bog in China. The oldest one germonated was about 1200 years old and you can read the link in the Google search I linked to below .

You'll read claim after claim for germination of very old seeds but there are lots of folks who like to tell tales.

One great one was the so called discovery of tomato seeds in an Egyptian tomb which were called Oos Oos Pei. Problem was that tomatoes only left this continent with the Spanish in the 1400's and the claim for these seeds in Egypt was from about 2000 B.C.E. Sigh.

And on and on it goes.

So please read some of the links below and I think you'll see that the lotus seeds at 1200 years old are the oldest to be germinated.

Carolyn, who subscibes to several archaeology magazines and who follows the old seed germination reports with great interest.

Here is a link that might be useful: Google Search; oldest seeds germinated

    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 9:12PM
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mistercross(z6b Ozarks)

Here's an older claim, but this link is vague about how it was dated, the seeds sat around for a dozen years before they were seriously examined, and the claim is that there was nothing special done to the seeds to get them to germinate.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lemming Burrow Seeds

    Bookmark   November 23, 2004 at 6:49AM
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gardenlad(6b KY)

>but there are lots of folks who like to tell tales. That's so true, Carolyn. For evidence one need only read some of the catalog descriptions of various heirloom plants.

However, there are other possibilities. F'rinstance, while it's certainly less bad then it used to be, site contamination by those on the dig continues to this day. In the 19th century sites were notorious for producing impossible finds because previous diggers were---to be kind---sloppy in their techniques.

Here's a made-up example:

A friend gleefully shows you the lens from an eyeglass, and tells you he bought it in an antiquities market. It comes, he says, from an Aztec burial ground, and proves that the Aztecs had glass technology long before people normally think.

From all this we can conclude that either:

1. The Aztec had a previously unsuspected sophisticated glass technology.

2. Either your friend or his source is a teller of tall tales.

3. Sometime in the 19th century a researcher lost a monocle at the site. 50 years later, after half a century of alluvial accretion built up, a second team discovered it, and concluded it was contemporaneous to the site.

Personally I would rank these thus: #1: Highly unlikely. #2. Possible, and, depending on your friend, likely. #3 Possible and very likely.

Oos Oos Pei probably is one of those. It is all too easy to envision an uneducated Egyption coolie leaving part of his lunch behind, and an archeologist several years later pronouncing it as contemporaneous to the Pharoahs

    Bookmark   November 23, 2004 at 8:23AM
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