Every year when it’s planting season, I find myself rushed to get those seeds going. Sometimes, it’s because I’m a little late to get things planted, other times, I’m just impatient and want those flowers now! So, I’ve wondered, how to germinate seeds quickly?
After a bit of research and experimentation, I’ve found these 11 ways that can do the trick without harming your seeds.
Nicking or Scarification
A simple way to help speed up the germination of seeds is through nicking. Use a knife or some sandpaper to scar or mar the coating of each seed. This allows moisture to hit the seed’s embryo faster, which allows the seed to germinate more quickly. Plant as usual.
Stratification is a temperature control option for speeding up germination. This technique uses exposure to moist cold to trick seeds into thinking they’re in winter and is ideal for seeds that typically take weeks to germinate.
You’ll want to soak the seeds, then fill the container halfway with a moist seed-starting media like coconut coir, peat moss, or a seed starting blend. Place the seeds in the container, then add another inch or so of the medium.
Put the container in a corner of the fridge where it won’t be disturbed. Keep the temperature in the fridge between 34-and 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the seeds regularly for signs of germination.
Another temperature control method, ideal for warm weather crops like tomatoes and peppers, is the pre-soaking method. Put your seeds in warm water (room temperature not hot water). Make sure the seeds are never exposed to temperatures higher than 80 degrees Fahrenheit, though closer to 75 is ideal.
Soak smaller seeds in this warm water for eight to 16 hours (overnight is good). Larger seeds should be soaked up to 24 hours but not over that. Tiny seeds, like broccoli seeds, probably won’t benefit as well from pre-soaking and will be much more difficult to gather and then plant.
The Right Soil/Starter Medium
The right starter mix for seedlings is another way to speed up seed germination. A commercial mix – usually a blend of components including sphagnum peat moss or coconut coir, vermiculite, and perlite – is a great way to do it, or you can make your own for the right blend for your intended plants.
The right mix isn’t a miracle, of course, but it certainly helps those seeds find the nutrition they need faster, keeps the seeds moist but well-drained, and provides them with everything they need to get growing.
Burpee Organic Coconut Coir Concentrated Seed Starting Mix
This seed starting mix is an alternative to regular soil. It's made form biodegradable organic coconut coir, which is great at retaining moisture and preventing your seeds from drying out. Each brick expands to eight quarts and you get two bricks in this package.
Grow Testing on Paper Towels
This is a great way to speed up germination, but it’s also a great way to test the viability of seeds. If you have older seeds (like my leftover herb seeds from last year’s garden) or are using seeds from a new-to-you brand, this is an excellent way to start out. This will speed up the growth as well as let you know if there’s any point in placing the seeds into pots.
Soak a paper towel in lukewarm water then place it in a zipper seal bag or air-tight container. Then, add as many seeds as you are able to cover the layer of paper towel. Seal the container and wait.
Because most seeds germinate fastest when the soil is between 68 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit, using a heat mat can help speed things up. Keep the mat warmed to between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit for best results for most seeds. Use a thermometer, though, to check the temperature of the actual soil to make sure it’s warm enough. If not, raise the temperature on the heat mat a little.
VIVOSUN Heat Mat with Digital Thermometer
This set features a heat mat for seedlings and a digital thermostat, which ensures temperatures will remain stable within a narrow range.
Planting Cool Weather Crops Early
If you’re wanting to grow some cooler weather crops, you can focus on getting these seeds started sooner than the others. Use one of the starting methods, like stratification, to speed it up even more by combining these two concepts.
Stratify your seeds then plant them while it’s still cool. Keep your eye on temperatures, of course, but you should find your seeds pop up even faster and keep producing longer this way.
Using Fast Growing Seeds
This is not technically a way to germinate your seeds faster, but there are certain plants that simply sprout faster. Cress, for example, can germinate and sprout within 24-hours of planting. There are a host of flowers, vegetables, and even some fruits as well that pop up quickly and produce within a matter of a few weeks.
Plant hormones are another potential method for speeding up germination. Rooting powder is what you’re looking for. This product helps you grow seeds faster, as well as helping cuttings produce healthy roots and grow faster.
Make sure the hormones you purchase are for growth, though, as some plant hormones are actually weed killers.
Hormex Rooting Hormone Powder #1
This rooting hormone powder is available in five different strengths. Choose #1 for seeds and, to encourage faster germination, soak the seeds in a 1% solution (1 part powder, 99 parts water) for 24 hours.
Pre-Chill the Seeds
Another method with stratification is a “pre-chill” option. Soak a paper towel in cool water and place it in an air-tight container. Lay seeds on the paper towel, then wrap the towel completely around the seeds, encompassing them with moisture. Seal the container and place it in the refrigerator for a week.
Instant Pot Magic
You read that right – we’re talking about germinating seeds in an instant pot! A scientist and amateur gardener came up with the method, sharing lots of helpful hints on how to do this.
In a nutshell, set your Instant Pot to the “yogurt” setting and let it warm up while you get your seeds ready. Moisten several paper towels (they should be moist but not dripping) and wrap your seeds in the paper towels. Put the paper towels into a zipper seal bag and place the bag in the Instant pot.
If your seeds should be grown in cooler temperatures, simply place the bag on the closed lid of the Instant pot while it’s on the “yogurt” setting and let the lid to the work.
Many of your seeds will sprout within a half or third of the usual germination period with this method. An alternative to this method is using heat mats.
Now You’ve Done It!
Once those seedlings start popping their little heads up, be sure to take proper care of them to keep them healthy and happy. I’d recommend, for most seedlings, that you keep them indoors for a bit, under grow lights and, if possible, in a warm space that won’t get over about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the soil moist and transplant them outdoors or into pots after a few weeks, and soon you’ll have that thriving garden you’re longing for.