A dried, viable seed houses endosperm and the fertile embryo of a plant. Visual inspection of some seeds will leave the gardener questioning if the seed is going to germinate and produce plants. Sprouting or germination of a fertilized seed is the start of the entire life cycle of a plant.
Seeds will remain viable from one to six years when properly stored. Test old seeds by forcing them to sprout to determine if they will germinate after being planted in the garden. Count the sprouting seeds to determine the percentage of successful germination. If 90 percent of the seeds fail, the crop will likely be a failure.
Seeds will sprout under moist conditions, according to the library at Washington State University Extension. Place several seeds on a dampened paper towel and enclose it in a sealed plastic bag or jar. Record the date when the seeds are set out at room temperature. Check over the next week to see if the root emerges. The potato seed has the best start when it is sprouted before being planted in the garden.
A source of water is needed for a seed to soak in moisture, enabling it to sprout. The beginning stage of sprouting is the absorption of water. Enzymes are activated by the moisture and the germination process is set in motion. The endosperm within the seed supplies nutrients for the growing embryo. The seed coat which surrounds and protects the plant embryo will swell and eventually split open.
The radicle or main embryonic root of the plant will emerge from the seed to establish an anchor hold in the soil. The radicle will branch out into a healthy root system. The coleoptile, or seedling, will emerge and grow in the opposite direction.
A productive garden is based on the successful sprouting of viable seeds. The sprouting of seeds is the start of the growing process.