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Germination Test with 3 year Old Onion Seeds

Click thumbnails for larger images


Materials & Tools

Compost & seeds

Seed tray

Compost sieve / riddle
Compost press
Sowing template & pencil

Step 1

Fill a half-sized seed tray with sieved compost, and use the compost press to make a smooth firm surface.

Making a Compost Press

Step 2

Using a seed-sowing template, make a series of holes in the compost using the tip of a pencil.


Sowing Template for Half-trays


Step 3

Remove the template, and you should have a series of evenly spaced holes, as shown.

Step 4

Sow one seed in each hole. If needed, you can use a seed sower to help.

How to Make a Seed Sower

Step 5

Pinch the compost to close each of the holes, and use the compost press again to ensure there is good contact between the seeds and the compost.


Step 6

Return any remaining seeds to the packet.

Step 7

Water. I use a pop bottle with a series of holes made in the cap to avoid washing the seeds around.

Spray Nozzles

Step 8

Add a label with the variety and date. Place on a sunny windowsill in a heated propagator and add a propagator lid. Check regularly to ensure the compost does not dry out. 

Step 9

After two weeks in the propagator, only 6 had germinated, of the 48 I sowed, or 1 in 8. 

This was a true test, as it is generally recommended to sow onion seeds which are less than three years old.

In conclusion, it is probably worth sowing old seed if you only want a few plants. I want about 100 onions for my allotment this year, and at a 1:8 germination rate, I'd have to sow at least 800 seeds to have a good chance of reaching that goal.


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