Germination rate?

La Grange, GA


I would like to start heirloom tomatoes from seed this year and noticed most come in packs of 30 to 50..........

Since I wanted 2 plants of of say 10 different varieties, I would have a lot of left over seed depending on the germination rate.

So two many seeds should I start with to end of with 2 to 5 plants out of a pack. And how long should I be able to keep the seeds before they aren't good anymore?


Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

Out of 70 varieties I planted, germination rate was above 75% on 51 of them.

If you've grow hybrids from seed it the same deal with heirlooms. If you haven't tomatoes are pretty easy. With relatively new seed I'd plant one more than I wanted. For two plants I'd plant 3 seeds, for 5 plants I'd plant 6 seeds unless I knew that I had lower germination numbers. Tomatoes sprout in anywhere from 4 days to 5 weeks for older seed, most are around 6 days if your soil temp is around 75F. If enough don't come up in a week with what you plant you can aways plant another seed or two. That will assure that the one that didn't sprout will do so now. It will be a little behind the others but will catch up.

As far as age I had 100% germination on some seed last year that I bought in 2007. I also had 50% germination on seed bought at the same time. I think the record is 50 years.
You can always trade some of the seed you have for seed you don't.

Good luck

Salem, NY(Zone 4b)

I think I'd do things a bit different from Doug,

First, on your seedpacks see if there's a packed by date and if there is it's useless since it just means the date the seeds were packed and not how old they are, If there's a germination rate see if it has a date on it,

I've been doing large seed offers since the mid-80's and have learned a lot.

1) not everyone uses the same method for sowing seed and IMO some are better than others.

2) With the same exact seed one person can get 100% germination and another can get 0%.

With my seed offers I send few seeds b/c I want folks to get plants and frjits and save their own seeds , so, with :

fresh 2012 seed I send only 5-6 seeds and insist that all seeds be sown.

2011 seed, I send usually just a few more seeds and for 2010 seed a few more, etc, but this year 2008 seed will be the oldest that I send and with 5yo seed one should expect around 50% germination depending on all the variables I mention below,

I know the exact age of my seed b'c it's produced for me by two folks in NC, one in IL and now I've added a third here in NYS and do that since being in this walker I can no longer grow and save my own seed. My job is to find the varieties and send then to others to grow. I do grow the same ones here at home so I know what the taste is like, and leaf form and plant habit, etc., but someone else does all that for me.

I won't go into what to do with seed older than 5 yo since that doesn 't pertain to you. And yes, the record to date is 50 year old seed that I posted elsewhere was from the precursor to the USDA stations, this one in Cheyenne, WY where the seeds were just stored in a filing cabinet before they were sent to the newUSDA place in Ames, IA. where germination was done, but that record still stands and is rare. My best record is waking up seeds 22 yo buts pecial stuff has to be done to do even that.

How fast seeds germinate is dependent on age, yes, but also the media being used and the temp and whether the container has bottom heat, it doesn't need it but peppers and eggplant do, whether the seed containeris covered, etc.,so there are many variables.

Since you have plenty of seed why don't you do a run through first and see how it goes.

I'd be glad to answer any other questions for you,


Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

I agree completely that much of the germination rate depends on ones set up. The numbers I gave come from my set up which has limitations.

The reason I very seldom plant all the seed I have at one go has to do with the things that happen after I've planted the seed. I've managed to drop and knock over cups of recently planted seed. You know how hard it is to find a few tomato seed in a small pile of soil? I've had a cat ( we have three) knock the one cup over that I most wanted to grow. I like to have reserves if I can.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Could you recommend a germination test method for tomato seeds older than 5 years? I have some seeds I saved back when I was an UberNewbie. I think I did it correctly, since I've had good germination from my saved tomato seeds.

The 2007 batch was my first attempt, however and, to date, I've not sown any of those for some reason. But, they are definitely seeds I'd like to start if they're viable. Would wrapping a few in a damp paper towel be the way to test? Never did a test before.



Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

Opa_In_GA7b, I've purchased seed from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and to name a few companies that have a packet option with ten or less seeds. If you shop around you can find several companies that offer sample-type packets.

I usually only plant out 2-3 of around 20 varieties, too. I save the extra seed in the original packets inside sealable plastic bags and then into a square tupperware-style container which is stored in a drawer in my pantry. I've used seven year old seed that germinated well of me. On a very rare occassion when a seed doesn't germinate I just pull out another seed of that variety and plant it. It doesn't take very long for tomato seed to germinate and the late starters catch up fast. I have also wrapped a couple of seeds in a wet paper towel and into a plastic baggy. Put in warm place and see if they germinate. You can then carefully plant those germinated seeds.

Eventually you may accumulate more seed than you can use. Then you can share! Swap for more seed! Grow out extra tomato plants for your friends! Go in with a buddy and buy packets with more seed than you want and split the packet with them! Join a round robbin! The best lesson I have learned on Dave's is that gardening is not a solo pursuit--there are potential seed buddies lurking around every forum =).

Hope you have fun with your tomatoes this year--which ever varieties you chose to grow.

La Grange, GA

Thanks for all the responses so much to learn here :)

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

BEST place in the world to learn about gardening!!!

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

You may want to DG Garden Watchdog before ordering. One of the above mentioned Co. has had issues with germination. So if you do order seeds and they don't germinate it might be the seeds and not you. I have not ordered from this Co so Im not speaking from personal experience. I THINK Pinetree is another Co. That sells small amounts.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

You're right. I do remember I had germination issues with an abovementioned vendor's seeds, just last season...At first I thought it was just me, until different seeds from the same vendor just were shot. Then, I asked if anyone else was experiencing this, and several replies came back affirmative...

Thanks for reminding us that, sometimes, it's NOT user error!...

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I very rarely have germination problems but when I do im sure it's ME. So if that is a concern from the get go best to make sure the source is reliable.

Salem, NY(Zone 4b)

I don't know which seed site is the one in question, so can someone share that with me?

THE best site for sample size packets of seeds with a fabulous selection is The Sample Seed Shop, easily found via Google and owned by Remy Orlowski whiI've knoen for many years..

I'll have to catch up here at a later date since this week I found I was a victim if credit card fraud and have been dealing with that issue,


Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

I'm not sure which of the two I mentioned would be suspect. I've honestly never had problems with either, but I am new to buying seeds for my Southern garden and am exploring new seed sources. I know I did have one small problem with starting peanuts I ordered from Southern Exposure....but I called and they pointed out what I was doing wrong (geeze, why can't I read ALL of the directions =~)). They even sent some extra peanuts so I could start over again. I should probably post that on Watchdog, but that was last year so it might not count.

Caroly, credit card fraud--you too! DH had an attempt on his AmEx and I had one on my Discover. What is going on in this world!

sun city, CA(Zone 9a)

I also like the sample seed shop. very dependable seeds at good prices.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Cherrygal has some neg. reviews. A lot actually, there was a thread about it a couple of years ago. BUT I have never used them so I can't say. I didn't look at SESE.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Most are usually my own saved seed or Burpees off the rack, Those are usually my best germination rates. Others I get from trades with DGer's are good, My heirloom seeds seem to take a few days longer to germinate ,and are about 70% or so..
Of course I have the occasional fail, me ,stored to long, fungus, such..
I have noticed that fresh seed from saved gives the larger stronger plant , comparative to hybrid starts .
Standard rule is five years for storing tomato seeds, However the with the heirlooms as said, the fresher the seed the better the plants (seedlings) seem to be.

Ester Hess ; Well it is an Heirloom , Everyone here liked the Broad Ripple Currant better, still it was fun to grow this and it did well

Thumbnail by juhur7 Thumbnail by juhur7 Thumbnail by juhur7
Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

I've never had bad luck with CherryGal, but I do know others have. I have had bad luck with Baker's oddly enough.....I do think think sometimes that germination is in the eye of the beholder so to speak. I always do seem to order something from Burpee's as well. Must be a nostalgia thing for me. I tend to do that...

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

I had major problems with the CherryGal seeds I purchase last year.

It was my first time ordering from her, and, I do make allowance for flukes in the seed batch. But, I ordered multiple packs of different seeds, and the results were the same. Maybe one or two seeds out of each pack germinated...

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

Same here with Baker. I haven't ordered from CherryGal in a year or so. I've kind of made my choices of the seeds I trialed from CherryGal and now purchase in quantity from someone else.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

That's strange, Ive had 1 germination issue with BC but they resolved it no questions ask. I know germination rates can vary depending on the methods one uses but when a lot of people have problems that makes me wonder.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Just to clarify, I called CherryGal and she immediately dispatched another batch of seeds, which I believe did a bit better than the original order.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

I sow a lot of each variety of seed I intend to grow each year. Germination should really not be an issue. There's a lot that can, and does, happen between sprouting and when the plant goes in the ground. I'd rather thin dozens of seedlings on the first and second transplants than be nursing weak seedlings from ten seeds.

Viability, or "spunk" if you will, of the seed is an important criteria for my seed saving. After all, the objective is to grow a great tomato and then get more seed. I want my best shot first time around. Don't really care so much how long the seeds will store because if I have to keep trying a variety from seed to ground year after year I ditch it. There are just too many great tomatoes to agonize over a named one regardless of who recommends it. If I buy seed I plant it and hope for the best. New seed is relatively cheap when you have a stash of saved seed. If it doesn't work out the first time you can have a go again for only a few dollars or move on.

BUda, TX(Zone 8b)

I had some bad germination with Baker Creek Okra Seeds last year, but they did replace the seeds, and the second set was a little bit better. My only apprehension was the seed lot number was the same. Will start both batches again this year, but in rows next to each other in the IHORT starter GH, just to see if there is any difference..

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Did you soak the seeds before you sowed them? Okra does like really warm soil, I always direct sow okra, I've never tried starting it before. Do you know what type it was?

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Kevin and I had equally disappointing results growing the same okra. It had to be the seeds.. Kevin shared his seeds with me...

BUda, TX(Zone 8b)

It was soaked and it was Burgundy & Zeebest. The Cowhorn 22 I got from Willhite did a lot better.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Oh, I believe you, I was just wondering. I've gotten a couple of seeds from BC that didn't germinate BUT they replaced them no questions ask. They have soooooo many to choose from I'll be forgiving, especially with great customer service. Good to hear about Willhite. Just what I need another seed co. ATM Im obsessed with growing Dwarf Tomatoes.....

East Kingston, NY(Zone 5b)

Kevcarr, have you tried Fedco seeds? I grew okra for the first time last year and the germination on their seeds was fabulous. I start them indoors, though. Maybe you don't have to do that in Texas? Even if I didn't like eating okra, I think I'd grow it anyway because the plant is so pretty.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

If I can interject, okra seed has a short, short viability period.
I'm looking for the chart that lists it, if I recall it was one year.

edited to add the link

Tomato seeds are viable from 4 to 7 years.
Okra only 1 to 2 years.
This message was edited Jan 20, 2013 10:57 PM

This message was edited Jan 20, 2013 10:58 PM

BUda, TX(Zone 8b)

Thanks for the Fedco hint. I'll have to give them a looksee... I have a LOT of seed company catalogs and online. We, excuse me, I, had the problem of not liking zucchini at all, until last year. We had so much we were eating it all the time. Grilled, fried, baked, sauteed, almost any way you could eat it. I guess I'll have to try that this year with the okra. In 2011 we did real good with the 2 okra plants we had, but didn't get any to grow last year...

Thanks for the link, have bookmarked it. I'm going to have to see what happens this year with the okra seed. We saved some okra seed from our 2011 garden and have also started these alongside the others... I got some of the seed that we used several years ago, beans, cukes, squash & zucchini, hope it's still good...

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

I do the same with old seed but consider it experimental.
At least that chart will give us a guideline to go by.

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or register to post.

Upload Images to your reply

    You may upload up to 5 images