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how to germinate seeds

Julie Martens Forney

Some seeds have naturally hard seed coats that make it tough for water to penetrate so germination can occur.

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Seeds bring magic to life in a garden, yielding gorgeous blooms and lip-smacking fruits and vegetables. The transformation from seed to plant starts with germination, when a seed cracks open to sprout a root, followed later by stem and leaves. Many gardeners germinate seeds on paper towels, and then transplant the tiny seedling into soil. Why should you consider germinating seeds before planting?

Some seeds have naturally hard seed coats that make it tough for water to penetrate so germination can occur.

Place seeds inside the damp towel or filter, and slide it into a sandwich baggie. Don’t seal the baggie tight, because that can provide good conditions for mold to grow. Stash the baggie in a warm spot (65-75°F)—a laundry room, southern window or sunroom. Monitor the towel for moisture and the seeds for signs of mold. Mist the towel if it dries out.

Seeds also have their ideal temperatures, and during seed starting season it has more to do with the temperature of the soil you’re starting them in as opposed to what the weather is like outside.

I store my seeds in this neat plastic storage case in my office closet, so they’re definitely not getting those conditions. It would be like working in a refrigerator if my office was that cold!

Seed planting depth: Most seeds will need to be covered in soil to aid germination. But, some seeds, like flowers, should only be lightly covered because they need light in order to germinate.

Tips for How to Germinate Seeds for Seed Starting

When you first break open those seeds packets it feels like a miracle to hold tiny, new seeds in your hands. And it’s exciting to imagine the day when they’ll grow big enough to provide you and your family with harvests of beautiful vegetables.

#5 – Provide consistent moisture.

This chart lists the optimal soil temperature for each vegetable.

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We also like to put the pots in saucers and fill the bottom with water till the soil in each pot is saturated, then empty the saucer. It will take a couple of days for the little green leaves to pop out. Now they will need full sun to grow strong and healthy! Below is an extreme example of how much we love this method! =)

All you need is a plastic or glass container with a tight lid. Clear ones will make it easier to see through, but not required as the seeds don’t need light to send out roots.

We discovered this method to start seeds from an older book- Planning The Organic Vegetable Garden. It made such a huge difference , we just LOVE it and have been using it every year for the last 10+ years! This method is called pre sprouting, or pre germinate in the book.

Comparison of germinating seed on paper towel method with germinating seeds in soil.

This is our FAVORITE method to germinate seeds quickly. As passionate gardeners, we have been using it to start seeds for over 10 years! It works great for all herbs, flowers, and vegetables seeds.

Although you see seedlings grown in six-packs at nurseries, I think it’s a fantasy because those plants were grown in perfect greenhouse conditions with daily fertilizers.

There is one extra step of planting the germinated seed in soil. So if you want to plant a whole field of flowers or vegetables, this method will not be practical.

Definitely check out the tips, because there is one thing that you should NOT copy what the nurseries do!