Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Paper Towel Seed Germination

      The earlier post about the life expectancy of seeds got the old sap flowing in my veins to get some of those seeds started or trashed.  I have read about germinating seeds in moist paper towels to get little sprouts for transferring to cell packs.  The upside is that one can set the seeds up for germination in just a matter of minutes.  The downside is if you are successful with the germination, there is a heck of a lot of transplanting tiny seedlings required.  And yet, with all of the aging seed I have on hand, the temptation for easy germination has won out.
      The basic idea is to moisten a paper towel, place seeds on it, fold the outer edges of the towel over the seeds, then place it in a plastic bag or sealed plastic container to await germination.  Time required to germinate the seeds should be close to the suggested time on the seed packet.

Onion Seeds to dampen,  1/12/2012
      The photo above is of onion seed placed on a towel on 1/12/12.  I then used a small eye dropper to get a few drops of water to moisten the towel, not to flood the container.  The towel was then folded over the seeds and the container put on the shelf.

Parsley seeds,  1/12/2012
      I have found parsley seeds to be difficult to get good germination in the past.  This method seems worth a try.  These were dampened, and the towel folded over the seeds to make a little square packet.  This packet was then slid into a sandwich bag with a label.  You can watch the swelling and development of root hairs without having to pull the packet out of the bag.

Parsley ready to start,  1/12/2012
      On 1/12/12 I started this extra curled parsley, Krausa parsley, giant red celery (tiny seeds), American flag leeks, red burgundy onions, yellow sweet Spanish onions, giant winter spinach, American spinach, and sweet basil.  Yesterday, on 1/16/2012, I put on towels, more American spinach, corn salad (no germination last year), salsify (new to me), parsnips (no germination last year), Australian brown onions, and Lisbon white bunching onions.

Dollar store containers work well
      The basil I had started was not because of short seed life, but rather that in past years I have often had lousy germination.  Last year was pretty good, and this year is already looking good as the seed started five days ago is already sprouted!

Basil,  1/17/2012
      Lots of the basil seeds have sprouted roots, and some have little green buds that will be leaves.  I used my trusty little spatula (from my grandmother's kitchen) to move some of those budded seedlings.  Put them two to a cell, as they would not be too crowded if they all survived.  The cell packs were then covered with small panes of glass to maintain the high humidity for a couple of days.

Basil seedlings,  1/17/2012
      Peppers are next on my agenda, as they are slow to germinate and slow to grow.  This method seems to have promise, as it eliminates the possibility of waiting around for a month for a flat to show some sign of germination.  I will be very busy however, as the leeks, onions, and spinach planted on 1/12/2012 are all showing signs of root growth.  I might pot up the leeks even before any green stem growth.


  1. Stumbled across this today and was so glad for it. My 4YO and I are starting an herb garden and are using this method to germinate our seeds. I was encouraged to read back and see your success. Its the first I have tried (i call it our pilot project), but I have high hopes! Your blog is quite lovely.

  2. Thanks for the helpful guide with pictures. I am going to try this method on onion seeds as last year I had no success whatsoever planting the seeds in soil mixture.