Conducting a Seed Germination Test

 Laying out seeds for our seed germination test.

Laying out seeds for our seed germination test.

 We set our our "mini greenhouses" in the window of our office, so we could all keep an eye on them.

We set our our "mini greenhouses" in the window of our office, so we could all keep an eye on them.

When planting a greenhouse full of seeds, like we are, it's important to know the germination rate of your seeds. The germa-what? Germination rate. The germination rate tells you how many of your seeds are likely to sprout. And that determines how many seeds you should plant in each cell.  

Confused? Let's do some math. Yes, math. Believe it or not, farming requires math (so all you future farmers - pay attention in your math classes!). Okay, so, germination rates - if you know that 6 out of 10 seeds are likely to sprout, that means you have a germination rate of 60%. So, 6 out of every 10 seeds will be successful and 4 out of 10 seeds will not. If you plant a 72 cell tray with 1 seed per tray, you will only get 43 sprouts per tray (72 x 60%). Not a great average. Since the chance of failure per seed is 40%, if you plant 6 seeds per tray, you will have a higher percentage of sprouting success. The overall failure rate will be reduced to 0.4% (40% x 40% x 40% x 40% x 40% x 40%). This means that you are likely to have 99.6% of the seeds in each cell germinate and every cell in every tray will have a tiny tree.

This year, we will plant several different varieties of evergreen trees in our greenhouse. We are waiting on seed for our Norway Spruce, Colorado Spruce, and Eastern Red Cedar, but we had leftover Fraser Fir seed in our freezer from last year. So, to determine the germination rate of our Fraser Fir seed, we conducted a simple test. We made a mini-greenhouse and "planted" 10 seeds in small, plastic containers. In 14-20 days, the seeds will begin to sprout and we will know how many seeds to plant per cell in our greenhouse. We started the test on February 16th, so we should have results in a couple of weeks.  We will let you know how it turns out!

We had so much fun doing this experiment in our office, that we all decided to take some seeds home and conduct a germination test with our kids.  If you would like to do your own seed germination experiment at home with your kids, we offer a step-by-step guide here.