5 year old pepper germination?

ClareBroommaker's picture

Do you think 5 year old pepper seed that has not been refrigerated would germinate?

We saved lots of sweet pepper seed last year as usual, but I cannot find it anywhere. I also don't seem to have any seed from any previous years except 2015. Do you think that will germinate for me? Even a 1 in 5 success rate would be okay because I have plenty.

One way to find out is to put some on wet paper towel in a ziploc bag. Keep the paper towel damp and warm over a week. You should be able to see the seed splitting and the tiny root emerging within a few days if the seed is viable. Pepper seeds may take longer to sprout though, they are notoriously slow to germinate. Another way is to treat them like edible sprouts. This is probably quicker - soak seeds overnight in a jar of water then drain, and rinse seeds in water again once a day and watch for signs of sprouting. Either way, you can judge from the % of seeds sprouting what the likely germination rate of the seeds will be.
I don't know about pepper seeds particularly, but tomato seeds can remain viable for a decade if stored well, and peppers are part of that nightshade family.

ClareBroommaker's picture

Before even finishing reading your response I went right to the kitchen to start soaking the seeds. I was feeling kind of pressured to get seeds started because these peppers take such a long time to start bearing. Ideally I should have started them in January. Last year, tired of the difficulty of providing warmth for germinating seeds in winter, I just waited until April to start them, then did not have fruits until August or into September.

But testing my seeds in a jar or paper towel gives me an idea for how I can provide heat, too. I can just carry them on my person as they soak and (I hope) germinate. Once germinated, I can pick out the sprouters and transfer them to soil. After germinating they don't need as much heat, anyway.

I'm excited to try this body-heat germination idea! I've instantly fallen in love with the idea of walking around secretly "brooding" seeds no matter where I am or what else is going on around me. I don't know if I will be able to bear the sweetness of planting out peppers whose beginnings depended on my bodily warmth. Ha, I'm going to go wrap some some tomato seeds in a damp flannel scrap , seal it in a plastic bag, and slip it my bra today, too.

Okay, yall laugh with me, now.

Plants sprouting from the bosom of the earth mama? That's taking gardening to a whole new level:) xx

alice's picture

Cheering from over here too. That's earth care for sure.

Here in Tasmania we have trouble growing sweet peppers (or as we call them, capsicums) to full red ripeness most years due to our cool summers - I have had success growing them in large tin tubs in the full sun. The sun heats up the metal which keeps the soil at a warmer temp, BUT it also dries the soil out quickly, so I water these tubs twice a day. Foliar feeding also helps keep them growing happily. The downside is that I have to move the tubs into the shade if i am going away for more than a day, or get someone to water them. Luckily I am a homebody and a hermit:)

Ok, so I just remembered that I have tested seeds before by pouring them into a bowl of water - the non-viable ones float, the viable ones sink. I have never done this with small seeds though, only big ones like pumpkin and zucchini, and honestly, I am not sure how reliable this technique is, and of course, once you've done it you have wet seeds..

David Trammel's picture

I remember a long time ago, a garden expert (on TV) said that he put his seeds in the freezer for 3-4 days first, before sprouting them. His belief was it simulated to the seeds that Winter had happened and woke them up to begin sprouting.

This is called stratification and very useful for some plants which originate in cold climates. For instance I have been trying to grow mugwort from seed with no success, and have just discovered that stratification is the key for this plant - two weeks in the veg crisper in the fridge in a ziploc bag with a little potting mix in the bottom should do the trick (The freezer seems excessive, but may be necessary for some seeds. I don't know). However, sweet peppers are sub-tropical plants and would not at all appreciate a spell of winter!