A very popular method of sprouting seeds is by using tissue paper or a paper towel. Germinating seeds in a paper towel is a viable option when you have a lot of seeds with you, and you have no idea which of these will grow successfully.
Be a lot gentler on the environment by either composting your fruits and veggies or using them as seed starters. Your pumpkin, for instance, can be used to grow, what else, pumpkin seeds! It takes about a week to see your first sprouts, so they’re easy to germinate. All you need is to get a pumpkin (not rotting yet), cut the top, clean the space, add your compost or soil, bury the seeds, and water.
2. How To Germinate Seeds In Soil
A busybee (yup, pun intended)? Water is an essential element when you’re still trying to germinate seeds. If you don’t have time to water it regularly, you can try doing this simple process. The self-watering technique involves cutting a plastic soda container about two-thirds and a third. Fill the two-thirds container with soil for your seeds while you place water into your one-third container. Put the two-thirds container in your one-third container. That’s it! The roots will consume whatever amount of water it needs, so you add more only when there’s little to none left.
Before we get into the easy ideas on how to germinate seeds, let’s answer one of the common questions among homesteaders: what’s the difference between sprouting and germinating? The answer is none! Yup, technically, they mean the same thing. Recently, however, some refer to microgreens as sprouts.
I love using toilet paper rolls or cartons to organize my wires, but you can also use them for seed germination. They’re scalable, which means you can add as many toilet rolls as you like in a container depending on how many seeds you wish to sprout.
Step 1: Line your container with paper towels. I like several layers of paper towels, so I fold them in half and cut to fit. If you are using plastic bags, fold and cut your paper towels to fit.
This article was originally published on March 5, 2014. It has been updated with additional information, photos, and video.
How to Pre-Sprout Seeds
Step 7: Transfer sprouted seeds to growing medium. Some seeds will sprout quicker than others. As soon as a seed shows tiny roots it is ready to plant. Carefully transfer your sprouted seed to your prepared seedling containers or soil blocks. Be very careful not to damage the root. If you do, the sprout will die. If the root has grown into the paper towel, snip around it and plant paper towel and all.
I had pepper seeds that were several years old. I hated to throw the package away without checking to see if they were still good. I checked the viability of the seeds by doing a seed germination test.
Step 8: Keep your seedlings warm and moist. Use your spray bottle to keep the soil surface moist and continue caring for your seedlings as described from step 5 on in this article: 10 Steps to Starting Seedlings Indoors.
Many seeds are simple to grow. Scratch up a patch of open soil, scatter the seeds, and there you go. But other seeds will do best under more controlled conditions, or with special treatment that mimics the conditions of their native habitats.
When seeds are harvested commercially, they don’t get to experience the natural cycle of the seasons—the cold, the heat, the rain—and they may need to be tricked into growth. Here are three easy techniques that will fool just about any reluctant seed.
Use these tricks to speed germination, then plant up some pots
I use a commercial “soilless” seed-starting mix—a blend of milled sphagnum moss, vermiculite, and other sterilized components—so I rarely have trouble with damping-off disease, a fungal problem that causes seedlings to wither and die. To prepare for planting, I pour all but a small portion of the mix into a large bowl and moisten it thoroughly with warm water. Next I fill the containers—plastic pots saved from my periodic nursery buying sprees—to ½ inch below the rim and gently pack the medium to eliminate air pockets. Containers recycled from previous uses should be first sterilized by soaking in a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water.
Since seedlings need light, I place trays of pots on south- or east-facing windowsills. I’ve started as many as 800 pots of seedlings in a season, so windowsill space can be gone before all the pots are placed. If that happens, I move to the basement, or anywhere else indoors, and rig shop lights with fluorescent tubes. Some books recommend tubes that emit specific kinds of light, but standard inexpensive fluorescent tubes also work well. To keep the light source close to the seedlings, I mount the lights on chains so they can be easily moved up or down. Seedlings need 12 to 16 hours of artificial light daily. As for temperatures, room temperatures in the mid-60s are adequate for young seedlings. Warmer temperatures would be fine too. If I’ve sown the seeds in pots outdoors in or out of a cold frame, I don’t worry about providing additional light or fret about the temperature.
Good watering is gentle watering. If you’re watering from above, use a soft, misty spray.