Starting your own seeds is an inexpensive way to grow plants for your garden. When using old seeds or those you have saved from your own garden plants, you may need to check if they are viable by first germinating a few in paper towels. If you like, you can then plant these germinated seeds in soil instead of throwing them away. Germinating seeds outside of the soil is also a way to illustrate the sprouting process to children. Help them plant their sprouted seeds so they can see them grow into plants.
Things You'll Need
Fold a paper towel in half, then in half again. Set it on a plastic plate.
Sprinkle water on the paper towel until it is evenly moist but not soggy. Add just enough water to wet through but avoid using so much that the water collects on the plate.
Sprinkle seeds between the layers of the paper towel. Space them approximately ½ to 1 inch apart so the sprouts do not become tangled once they germinate. Pat the top of the paper towel so the seeds are in contact with the moisture on both sides.
Slide the towel into a zipper-top bag and seal closed. Place in a 65 to 75 F room to germinate. Germination usually takes between three and seven days depending on the seed type. Check the seeds after three days for signs of sprouting, then every day thereafter until they do.
Fill a seed starting pot with a quality soil-less potting mix. Soil-less mixes drain well and are sterile, which helps prevent disease in young seedlings.
Water the soil until it is evenly moist throughout. Water until it just begins to drip from the bottom drainage holes to ensure there is moisture in the bottom of the pot where the roots will spread.
Poke a ½-inch deep hole in the soil in the center of the pot. Check that the soil is moist in the hole and not soggy. If it is soggy, allow the excess water to dry out overnight.
Grasp the germinated seed by the attached split seed coat or the leaves if it has already shed the seed coat. Set it in the soil with the root down in the hole. The root is the long sprout that emerged from the seed first.
Fill the hole in around the root loosely. Firm slightly but avoid packing the soil tightly around the seedlings as it may damage them.
Place the pots in a sunny window. Keep the soil moist but not soaking wet at all times until ready to transplant the seedlings outdoors or to their permanent pot.
Plant only one seed per pot so the roots don't become tangled.
Seedlings need a warm room and the proper amount of light to survive. Temperatures between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit are best, and use grow lights if you don't have a suitable window.