Are there special methods to use to germinate old tomato seeds?
Dear Tomato Dirt,
My dad recently gave me a bunch of seeds from some of my grandfather's German Pink tomatoes. My grandfather is deceased and I would love to carry on his tradition of growing this specific variety of tomato. And I want to use these seeds as they have sentimental value. My grandfather saved them from his own plants.
The problem is they are very old ... probably 10-15 years old. I tried the moist paper towel in the plastic bag method, but to no avail. (I did it the exact same way that I did the other seeds that I bought this year, and they had almost a 100% germination success rate.) Are these seeds just too old? Or is there another method to try for older seeds?
Yes! If tomato seeds are appropriately fermented, dried, and stored, they can last up to 10 years with a germination rate of 50%. If used within 4-7 years, the germination rate will be even better. Heirloom tomato pioneer Carolyn Male has re-awakened 22-year-old tomato seeds. The documented record of rejuvenation is 50 years.
Gardeners have successfully used different methods to get stubborn or old tomato seeds to sprout. Pre-soaking is one of the most effective means.
You can pre-soak old seeds in a glass of water. When pre-soaking seeds, make sure to stir the mixture occasionally so that viable seeds sink to the bottom of the container. Bad seeds will float to the top. Experiment with these combinations.
If old seeds don’t germinate, perhaps they were not properly fermented or may have been dampened, which can reduce or obliterate their viability. Some varieties, such as oxhearts, have a shorter seed viability rate. If you save your own tomato seeds, use reliable methods to ensure best future germination!
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