Testing Older Seeds to See If They are Still Good (with video)

Testing Seeds for Viability
Given that seed companies are shutting down their websites left and right this year (because they can't keep up with demand), there is no better time to learn how to test the viability of seeds you may already have on hand. Whether you've got a few seeds from last year or you have a stash of seeds many years old, it's easy to test whether or not they are still good. It surely can save a lot of hopin' and prayin' the seeds will sprout when in fact they are dead...and will also keep you from wasting perfectly good seeds by throwing them away.

How to Test Seeds for Viability

You will need:

paper towels

a spray bottle filled with water


Ziplock-style baggies

a pen


1. Lay a paper towel on a waterproof surface (like a kitchen counter) and spritz it with water. You want the towel pretty evenly moist, but not overly saturated.

2. Fold the paper towel in half, then sprinkle about 4 to 5 seeds on it. (Do not mix seed varieties. Only test one seed packet per paper towel.)

3. Roll up the paper towel and place it inside a baggie. Seal the baggie shut. Write the name of the variety on the baggie, as well as the seed packet's information on how long it takes the seeds to germinate (which is usually given in a range of days, such as 5 - 15.)

4. Place the baggie in a warm location, like the top of your refrigerator.

5. After the minimum amount of days until germination have passed, open the baggie, unroll the paper towel, and see if the seeds have started sprouting. 

6. If some but not all of the seeds have sprouted, you may roll up the towel, place it back in the baggie, and put it on top of the fridge until the maximum number of days until germination have passed. This can tell you what approximate percentage of seeds are viable.

7. If none of the seeds have sprouted, roll the paper towel back up and put it back in the baggie. Put the baggie on top of the fridge and check again in a few days. If the maximum days until germination passes and the seeds still haven't sprouted, the seeds are not viable.


  1. Mississippi Miss, you can read about my seed storage method here: https://www.proverbs31homestead.com/2021/02/diy-seed-vault-with-video.html