Testing Seed Viability

Reader Contribution by Deanna Tworivers
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When we were gifted with a seed library in the summer of 2014 I was amazed at the amount and diversity of the collection. Since then we have been able to participate in two seed swaps and passed several  items into our community. Some of the seeds were collected or packaged several years ago so I will be testing their viability and, with some luck planting, growing and collecting fresh seed and plants to share.

The first attempt will be North American Mountain Arnica, collected in 1990

Arnica Montana has a long use a medicinal herb in salves and lotions. Recommended for bruises and sprains Arnica is very soothing and has anti inflammatory properties. In North America the part of the plant most often used are the flowers.

This perennial plant prefers moist, acidic soil and full sun. It spreads easily and will make an attractive mound of small, yellow, daisy like flowers.

Upon opening the packet I was amazed at the amount of seeds it contained! The seeds are small and resemble marigold and calendula seeds.

To check viability you do not need fancy equipment. Simply dampen a paper towel and gently place the seeds on  it. Put in a sealed sandwich bag, labeled with the name of the plant and date of the trial. If the towel seems to dry out dampen it again.

Some seeds prefer darkness while others need light to germinate so do a bit of research and plan accordingly. A shelf near the window or a dark desk drawer will work.

I placed 20 seeds on the damp towel. If 10 germinate we have a 50 percent viability. This will give some indication of how many seeds to plant.

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