Improved Paper Towel and Baggy Method for Germinating Seeds



Learn about an improved method for seed germination. I demonstrate the traditional paper towel method as well as my improved baggy method. Speed up the germination process for any kind of seed. I have used this method on hundreds of different kinds of seed including perennials, alpines, bulbs, trees and shrubs.

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There are several different methods for starting seeds indoors that work well for vegetable seeds and flower seeds. In this post I will review the various seed starting methods and help guide you in selecting the right method for your situation.

Starting Seeds Indoors

There are three basic ways to start seed indoors; in pots or containers, the paper towel or baggy method and winter sowing. The last one is not really a form of starting seeds indoors, but it is a good alternative for home owners.

Winter Sowing:

Starting Seeds In Pots and Containers

Pros: Simple. You can use plant pots or even recycle old containers, as long as you punch some bottom holes into the latter. You can use garden soil but buying seedling mix is a better option. Once seed germinates it can grow right in the same pot until it is ready for the garden. Method works well for small and large quantities of seed. Works well for indoor plants and garden plants.

Cons: You can’t see the seed germinate. If nothing grows, it is difficult to figure out why. Was there no germination – the seed might have been dead? Did the seed germinate but then die – maybe you have a fungus or pH problem? Cold stratification is difficult in pots unless you have a dedicated fridge for plants, or a cold fruit cellar. Seeds that take a long time to germinate need to stay in the pot a long time. This becomes a lot of work in summer when the pots dry out quickly and need to be watered every day. A light source is needed to grow the seedlings. Both artificial lights and windows provide a very low level of light compared to the sun. This results in etiolated seedlings (ie tall and skinny).

Starting Seeds in Paper Towels or Baggies

Pros: You can see the germination process. Not only is this exciting, but it can tell you a lot about your seed. If you never see the root in the baggy you know that the seed is either not viable, or the pre-treatment was not the right one. If it germinates ie produces a root, then it is viable. If subsequently, the seedling dies it is not a germination problem. A lot of seed can be germinated in a small space using this method. You can hold 100 baggies of different seed in one hand – try toing that with 100 pots. Granted, if you are successful with all 100 seeds, they do need to go into pots at some point. Seed that takes a long time to germinate requires little care since the seed stays moist in the baggy. Stratification procedures are easy to carry out since the bags take up so little room in a fridge. Maximum use of seed. Since you can see which seed germinates, you need fewer seeds. In the potted method most people plant excess seed and weed out the extra. With this method you can put each seed into its own pot. This can be a real benefit for rare or expensive seed of limited quantity.

Cons: Requires an extra step. You have to put seed into baggies, and then you still need to pot them up. But you only pot up the ones that germinate. Extremely small seed can be difficult to handle. The video below shows you how to handle small seed using the baggy method. Baggies need to be examined more frequently for germinating seed than pots. No special lights are needed for germination, but once they are potted up they need the same light as any growing seedling.

Vermiculite and Baggies

This is a variation of the above baggy method. Instead of using a paper towel in the baggy, it is filled with vermiculite that has been barely moistened. Some people also use peat moss, or seed starting soil instead of the vermiculite.

Robert Pavlis is also the owner, and author of two gardening blogs.

Visit Garden myths is a blog that uncovers the secretes of common garden myths and tries to understand the truth about gardens and plants.

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