How to Germinate Seeds in Paper Towels - Backyard Boss
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How to Germinate Seeds in Paper Towels

With the start of the growing season quickly approaching, you might wonder if there’s any truth about speeding up seed germination using paper towels. In other words, there’s more to planning a garden than tossing a few seeds in the ground and hoping they’ll grow — Starting your own seedlings is incredibly satisfying.

Knowing how to germinate seeds faster is a life skill that’ll help you plan the perfect garden instead of depending on your local nurseries. So, do paper towels help speed up the seed germination process, and is there anything you must keep in mind before you begin? There’s mulch to learn!

Benefits of Germinating Seeds Using Paper Towels

Close-up of Chinese kale seeds that have germinated on moist water soaked kitchen towel
Image credits: ThamKC via Shutterstock

Traditionally, seeds are germinated in pots or trays filled with soil. Because you can’t see the progress, you don’t know if the seeds germinated or went bad. Using paper towels for seed germination helps you gauge the seed’s viability before planting them in pots because you can see the germination process. This way, you’ll know exactly what to expect, the kind of soil you’ll need to prepare, the size and type of pot you need to get, and the materials you need, like stakes or plant cages for when your plant grows.

Apart from viability, germinating seeds in paper towels helps save space. You don’t need to juggle between multiple trays and pots of soil or worry about where to place them to avoid accidents. You don’t even have to worry about the mess than comes with soil.

Finally, germinating seeds in paper towels is less time-consuming than starting your seeds in the soil. Depending on the seed, starting them in the soil can take several weeks to germinate. When it comes to paper towels, it can take about a week to 10 days for seed germination.

What You’ll Need

pine seeds on paper towel, seed germination
Image credits: USDA Forest Service via Creative Commons

Most viable seeds will only germinate if provided with the right conditions. Old seeds may not germinate, regardless of how well you care for them. However, read the seed’s packet to understand the ideal germination time and crosscheck that information with reliable sources to understand viability.

Since you can’t see your seed’s progress inside pots and trays of soil, paper towels are the best way to pre-germinate seeds. When they’re ready you can finally plant then in the garden.

You’ll need the following items to start seed germination:

Paper towels If you don’t have paper towels, you can use coffee filters for seed germination.
Transparent containers or bags Got any egg cartons or plastic-buttoned containers that berries come in? If not, a zip-top bag or a plastic cup works too. The container you pick should be transparent to create a greenhouse effect.
Pots or plots on the ground for planting the ready-to-go seeds Ensure you plant your seeds without delay once they have germinated because the border between ready-to-plant and too late is thin.
Labels Tape labels on the container to know what seed you’re growing to prepare when they’re ready for container or in-ground planting.
Seeds You can either harvest them from your garden or purchase them online.

This list doesn’t include pots, containers, or the soil mix you’ll need when your seeds are ready for transplant. This information is based on the type of plant you’re growing.

How to Germinate Seeds in Paper Towels

chilli seeds on tissue paper, seed germination
Image credits: mannewaar via Creative Commons

If you have old seeds in your seed organizer, germinate them in paper towels before ordering new seeds.

Step 1 Dampen two paper towels or coffee filters, but ensure they’re not soaking wet. Stack them in a container, plastic cup, or slide them inside zip-top bags.
Step 2 Place your seeds on the damped towel or filter. The number of seeds you place will depend on the size of your container and the seed type. Ensure there’s at least an inch of space around each seed.
Step 3 Partially cover the container, plastic cup, or zip-top bag to trap moisture, encourage air circulation, and create a greenhouse effect. Don’t completely seal the zip-top bag or container because a lack of air circulation can cause fungus.
Step 4 Keep the container or zip-top bag in a room that receives at least four hours of sunlight with temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. To compensate for a lack of sunlight, measure light and invest in artificial grow lights for healthy growth.
Step 5 Mist the paper towels or coffee filters with water every two days or when they start to dry out. Dry paper towels won’t germinate seeds.
Step 6 Check the seeds every two days to see if they’ve germinated. If you see a root growing out, prepare to plant it. When picking germinated seeds, be careful and gentle, so you don’t accidentally damage the root.
Step 7 If you want to plant your germinated seeds in containers, use a seed-starting mix to grow them. If you’re going to plant them in the ground outdoors, first plant them in toilet paper roll pots with a seed-starting mix. Then transplant them in the ground after the seedlings have at least six to eight true leaves.

Put Your Best Root Forward!

Preparing for the upcoming growing season is an exciting experience. To one-up your gardening game, learning how to germinate seeds using paper towels can help you save time, energy, and space. If you have old seeds stored away, germinate them in paper towels to see if they’re viable for planting in your garden.

Leave your experiences, thoughts, and questions in the comment section! And share with friends and family who might find this helpful.

Happy gardening!

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