April 28, 2021

Viability -  \ ˌvī-ə-ˈbi-lə-tē/ noun

The ability of a seed to germinate given the right growing conditions.

Viability in the Forest Garden

If a seed is viable, it is still able to germinate. A seed that is no longer viable will not germinate even if it is provided all the right conditions of moisture, soil medium, and planting depth/light. Viability of seeds is critical to the success of a Forest Garden. Some seeds have long shelf lives and can remain viable for many years, given the right storage conditions. Other seeds, such as those in the allium (onion) family, are only viable for about one year. Even if you are using a type of seed with a long potential shelf life, many things can compromise seed viability, including pests, moisture and molds, and too much direct sunlight. To avoid these types of potential problems, it’s important to store seeds according to best seed storage practices. You can read more about seed storage practices in this month’s FGTC newsletter.

When establishing the main components of a Forest Garden such as the Green Wall, contours, and alleys, farmers are often planting thousands of trees on their land. If they do not check seed viability, a farmer could plant a lot of trees through direct seeding and then realize too late that they did not germinate well.  This lack of verification can cause a farmer to lose a lot of time and risks the success of the seedlings if they have to plant a second time later in the season. To be assured of planting viable seed, it is recommended that with large batches of seeds, a small portion is taken and a germination test is completed to see what percentage of the seeds are viable. When conducting a germination test, to ensure that seeds are of good quality, a good germination rate should show at least 75% of the seeds being viable.

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