Blanket flower in bloom. RICHARD SCHNEIDER
BY VALERIE MILLER, FUTURE ENERGY SYSTEMS
Planting native flowers in your yard can provide an important source of food and shelter for wild birds and native bees! Each plant has unique requirements to germinate and grow. What is germination? Germination is when a plant emerges and starts to grow out of a seed, stemming into a seedling — a baby plant. Testing the germination rate, which is what percentage of your seeds germinate, helps us decide how many seeds to plant to get a certain number of plants. For example, if we want 10 plants and the germination rate is 50%, we need to plant 20 seeds. Let’s get testing!
What you need:
- 10 plant seeds. We recommend blanket flower, Gaillardia aristate.
- Small plate
- Clear plastic bag (such as a recycled Ziploc bag) large enough to cover your plate
- Paper towel
- Paper and pencil
What to do:
- Place a folded paper towel on your plate and pour water on it to make it wet. Drain away any pooling water.
- Place 10 seeds on top of the wet paper towel and then put the plate, paper towel, and seeds inside a clear plastic bag. Leave the bag unsealed.
- Place your plastic bag — filled with your plate, paper towel, and seeds — in a sunny, warm place.
- Check on your seeds daily.
- On your sheet of paper, write down the date and the number of seeds that have germinated — when you can see a root or stem coming out of seed. If you choose blanket flower seeds, it can take seven days to three weeks for your seeds to start germinating.
- Remove seeds as they germinate and plant them according to the seed packet instructions. They have successfully been accounted for in your experiment!
- Add more water to the paper towel if it becomes dry, but remember to drain away pooling water.
- Continue to monitor the seeds until they have all germinated, or until no more seeds germinate (seven days after the last seed germinated).
- Now you are ready to calculate your germination rate using this equation, where 10 is the starting number of seeds: Total Number of Seeds Germinated ÷10 × 100%
- Use the germination rate to decide how many blanket flower seeds to plant in your garden.
You can try this experiment again testing other types of seeds, different temperature conditions, and various levels of water. Try and guess what will happen in each new experiment!
To watch a video to learn about the importance of plants for a healthy Earth, along with instructions for this experiment, visit bit.ly/journeyofaseed
This article originally ran in Nature Alberta Magazine - Spring 2022.