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Seedling Production

Learn about the properties of good seed, proper storage of seeds and how to raise healthy seedlings from seeds.

Healthy lettuce seedings.

One of the most important factors that determines good harvest under favorable conditions are the seeds and the seedlings raised from them.

Good Seeds#

Good harvests starts with good seeds. Good seeds come from reliable sources. Properties of good seeds are listed below.

High Viability#

Good seeds germinate well. Seeds from reliable sources often list this metric as the germination rate percentage. The higher the percentage, the more of the seeds will germinate. For example, in a packet containing 1,000 seeds that lists the germination rate as 90%, we can expect to germinate 900 seeds from the packet.

Aside from the percentage indicated in the seed packet, germination rates can also be determined by germination test and flotation test.

Germination test can be performed by attempting to germinate a counted sample from a lot of seed and determining the percentage of seeds that actually germinated.

Most viable seeds sink in water. Flotation serves as a method to separate viable seeds from seeds of poor quality.

Seed flotation test. Viable seeds sink and bad seeds float.

Produces Normal Seedling#

Seedlings that sprout from good seeds have healthy radicle, strong stem, healthy cotyledons and vigorous growth.

Healthy mustasa seedlings.

Good Physical Purity#

A good lot of seeds are free from debris like sand, stone, chaff, husks, soil, etc. They are also free of seeds of other varieties or species; immature, broken, undersized, shriveled, diseased and infested seeds.

High Genetic Purity#

Good seeds are produced from plants that are bred to preserve the desirable traits and suppress the undesirable traits for a particular crop. Good seeds with high genetic purity consistently displays these traits.

Appropriate Moisture Content for Storage#

Good seeds are not too moist that it supports the growth of pathogens and not too dry that seeds lose viability during storage.

Seed packet label.

Free of Diseases and Pests#

Seeds that are free of diseases and pests is the start of a good harvest.

Information sheet about seed-borne disease.

Seedling Production#


  • Sterilized growing media - sterilized cocopeat works well

  • Sowing tray - a shallow plastic tub with drain holes at the bottom works well

    Microwavable tub fashioned into a sowing tray.


  1. Fill the sowing tray with a layer of moist growing medium 2-3cm thick. Pack and level the growing medium.

  2. Scatter the small seeds uniformly and thinly. The amount depends on the need. Consider provisioning for extra seedlings by about 15% of the number needed to account for the seed germination rate and other factors that can result in seedling loss.

  3. After sowing, water liberally as needed. Expect germination in three to five days.

  4. Water the seedlings as needed until they are ready for prickling.

    Left: Seedlings ready for prickling; right: Seeds recently sown.

Additional Tips#

Seed packets usually indicate the batch date or the sow-by-date of the seeds in the packet. When buying seed packets select the ones with a recent batch date or with a sow-by-date that is months into the future. The freshness of the seeds have significant impact on their viability and these dates are a reliable measure of how fresh the seeds are.

To maintain high germination rate of seeds in an open packet, keep them in their original foil packets with the open end folded shut. Keep them in a sealed container and keep them refrigerated.