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how to germinate

This article was co-authored by Andrew Carberry, MPH. Andrew Carberry has been working in food systems since 2008. He has a Masters in Public Health Nutrition and Public Health Planning and Administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

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If you’re a gardening enthusiast, you know there’s nothing more thrilling than seeing the first tiny green shoots come up after you’ve planted seeds. To germinate seeds you will need to give them the correct type of soil and make sure they get the right amount of sun or shade, plus regulate the temperature so they don’t get too hot or cold. Read on to learn how to give seeds the right environment to germinate and grow.

When this happens, I often don’t realize it for several weeks after planting, and that means I’ve already lost a lot of time. My garden season is too short and I’d rather spend the few extra dollars on new seeds to ensure I’ll have more success.

There are a few simple tricks you can incorporate into your seed starting process that will help you increase your success rate and avoid seed starting disappointments.

Tips for How to Germinate Seeds for Seed Starting

Over the years I’ve found that using a “germination chamber” greatly increases the humidity around my seedlings and ensures even and successful germination.

In general, I’ve never had much of a problem getting my onions, kale, lettuce, broccoli and other spring planted vegetables to evenly germinate in my living room or office without any extra heat.

In contrast, pepper, tomato, and eggplant seeds prefer warmer soil temperatures of 85 degrees F.

Another benefit to this is that you know if the seed has failed or not, saving time and effort. As everything is exposed, this also makes it easy to monitor the moisture levels and gives you greater control. It’s pretty much impossible to over water them with this method.

So, here’s my preferred method on germinating seeds on paper towels. You don’t necessarily have to use paper towels, there are a few other household items that work just as well with this exact method. For example, you can use: coffee filter papers, newspaper or cotton wool pads. Anyway, let’s get into it.

Step by Step Guide to Germinating Seeds On A Paper Towel

Transporting your seeds can be a pain as they’re so sensitive. With paper towels, once your seeds start to sprout you need to transfer them into some soil, this is the only thing I prefer about the soil method, no transferring! They’re the only two drawbacks in my opinion though, so let’s take a look at germinating seeds in soil.

Rockwool is ideal for germinating seeds. The method is a little different to when you do it with a paper towel. Check out this video for an in-depth tutorial on how to germinate seeds with rockwool.

The next positive to the soil approach is that you don’t have to transport your seeds once they’ve sprouted. This is the main advantage this method has over paper towels as it’s less effort. On the flipside though, as it’s already in the soil, if it’s packed too tight your seed will never be able to sprout. As you can’t see how your seed is doing, you wont know if it’s packed too tight or you’ve planted them too deep until it’s too late.