As planting season approaches, you may be wondering how to get a head start on getting all your seedlings sprouted and ready to go in your garden.
While it’s possible to grow your new plants in a seed tray, there’s another inexpensive and effective option you can use:
Sprouting your seeds in a paper towel!
Also known as the baggie method, germinating seeds in paper towel technique offers a few benefits over other seed starting techniques.
Whatever your motivation, using this method to germinate seeds is as easy as it is fun and will produce a superabundance of seedlings ready to produce a bountiful harvest in your garden.
Here’s how to get started:
Advantages of Germinating Seeds In Paper Towel
This method lets you test the viability of your seeds before planting. Since you’ll be able to see which seeds actually sprout and only plant the ones that do, you won’t be wasting valuable garden space on seeds that won’t grow.
You can sprout a lot more seeds than you can by using other methods, all in a much smaller space. There’s no need to set up space-consuming seed cells to see what will sprout. Just a handful of resealable bags can do the job of a few seed trays.
Seeds tend to sprout faster when germinated this way than when planted directly in the soil. The higher humidity and airflow present inside baggies when prepared correctly often lead to seeds germinating in just a few days.
Starting seeds in a paper towel can also be a great educational experience for children to gain a better understanding of how plants grow as well.
Related | Can You Compost Paper Towels?
How to Germinate Seeds in a Paper Towel
Begin by gathering your supplies. You’ll need a couple of sheets of paper towel, a resealable baggie and seeds.
It’s also a good idea to label your bags with what kind of seed is germinating inside and the date you started it, so grab a permanent marker too.
It’s recommended to use a separate bag for each different kind of seed you’re planting to prevent confusion later.
Wet the paper towels and gently ring them out so that they’re moist but not soaked. Too much humidity can drown the seeds or encourage mold growth.
Place your seeds on one of the moist paper towels, leaving about an inch of space between each seed. Once you’ve finished placing all your seeds, cover them with the other moist paper towel.
Label your plastic bag with the plant name and date and slide your prepared paper towels into the bag. You can use a straw to blow air into your bag before sealing if you’d like.
If you don’t, though, leave your bag open to allow for airflow to the paper towels. Your seeds need air to germinate well.
Put your bags in an area of your house that’s warm but not hot. Any place that maintains a temperature between 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit will work well.
Placing them on a heating pad is not recommended as it may cook your seeds before they get a chance to sprout.
The top of the fridge is an optimal spot for this. A south-facing window is another good option, especially if you want to be able to observe the process. Keep in mind that a dark spot is preferred, though, as darkness will help to speed up germination.
Check your baggies every day or so, opening the bag and adding fresh air to your seeds. If you left your bags open, you might need to mist the paper towels with some water if they begin to dry out.
Closed baggies will retain their moisture, however, and shouldn’t need any extra water.
In a few days to a week, you should begin to see the first signs of life in your bags. You’ll notice the radicle, or embryonic root, beginning to emerge from the seeds.
In another couple of days, the radicle should reach 1 to 2 inches in length. When this happens, it’s time to transplant your seedlings into your growing medium.
Open your bag and gently remove the paper towels to get to the seedlings within. If the root has intertwined with the paper towel, you can cut the paper towel around the seed and plant the seeding, paper towel and all. The paper towel will eventually disintegrate in your soil.
Make sure to only handle your seedling by the seed coat, as the radicle is very delicate. Make a small hole in the soil and insert only the root. You should keep the seed coat and any portion of the stem that’s emerged above the soil line.
You can transplant your seedlings directly outside if you’d like, but keeping them indoors in pots until they grow their second set of leaves will harden them and make it more likely that they’ll survive once placed in your garden plot.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long To Germinate Seeds In Paper Towel?
It’s recommended to transplant your seedlings as soon as the root emerges to prevent any rot or mold growth in the bag, but you can wait until the cotyledon, or first leaves, emerge as long as you keep a close eye on your bag and add fresh air daily.
If you want to observe their growth in the bag, make sure to move the baggie to a sunny location, like your window, as the developing seedlings will need sunlight to fuel their continued growth.
How To Germinate Seeds Quickly?
Some seeds will sprout faster than others, so it’s important to be patient with your seeds.
Cucumber, squash, and lettuce will take about 3 to 5 days to sprout while it can take anywhere from 5 to 10 days to germinate tomato seeds.
Other seeds can take much longer, though. Germinating strawberry seeds, for example, can take two to three weeks.
If you want to speed up germination, you can soak your seeds in water for 3 to 4 hours before putting them in the baggies.
Make sure you place them in a warm and dark area afterward, as this will help them germinate faster as well. You can get an inexpensive thermometer to ensure that your germination area is warm enough.
Germinating seeds using the paper towel method is a fun, easy, and inexpensive way to give your plants an early start.
It’s recommended to begin a few weeks before your last frost date, so your seedlings are ready to go out once your soil is warm enough. Best of all, sprouting your seeds this way will help scratch that gardening itch before you can get outside!