Before you can get started with growing plants hydroponically you first need a seedling. This is easily done with cuttings or clones but if all you have is a bag of seeds you will need to germinate your seeds first. Today we will show you how to germinate seeds with paper towel. This is one of the simplest and most effective ways of germinating seeds for hydroponics.
Germinating seeds with paper towel works great regardless of which type of growing medium or nutrients you decide to use.
Normally when a seed is planted in the Earth it has 3 basic environmental needs: darkness, moisture, heat. This tells the seed that it is time to get to work! We can recreate this environment using paper towel, a plastic bag, and a warm dark place.
How to Germinate Seeds with Paper Towel
1. Gather the materials
To germinate seeds with the paper towel method you need just a couple common items.
- Seeds (yes, you still need seeds! 😊)
- Paper towel
- Plastic bag (sandwich bags work well)
You may need more bags or paper towels depending on how many seeds you plan to germinate. Make sure the seeds aren’t piled up when you place the seeds on the paper towel. You want each seed to have a little space around it so it isn’t competing for water with the other seeds. This will also depend on the size of seeds you are using.
3. Moisten the paper towel
It goes without saying that seeds need moisture to thrive. Slightly dampen the paper towel so the seeds can begin absorbing water. You don’t want the paper towel to be sopping wet. Slightly damp is plenty!
2. Create a pocket for seeds in the paper towel
We like to start with a full size paper towel (the square kind) and place a row of seeds on one side, then fold the paper towel over. This is much easier if the paper towel is already slightly damp. The seeds should now be nestled between the two sides of the paper towel. Fold the paper towel in half one more time to create a neat square. This ensures the seeds are safely tucked inside and can get plenty of moisture. You should now have a neat paper towel square that fits almost perfectly inside a sandwich bag.
4. Put the paper towel in the bag and find a warm dark place
Place the folded paper towel in your sandwich bag and seal it up. Zipper type bags work best for this as they help retain the moisture inside the bag.
To start the germination process we need to trick the seeds into thinking they have been ‘planted’. This means finding a dark location that is slightly warm. The best way to achieve this is with a seedling heat mat in a dark closet.
If you don’t have a seedling heat mat I definitely recommend getting one, but in a pinch you can find a location that regularly receives a little bit of warmth. We often use a cupboard above our gas stove as it stays nice and toasty whenever we cook. Get creative and you’ll find a warm spot for your seeds. We have even successfully germinated seeds in a shoe box on top of a laptop charger.
5. Check progress often
Once the seeds ‘pop’ they go into light seeking mode. You’ll want to make sure you plant the seeds shortly after they have germinated as they will soon grow very long seeking the light. We usually check our seeds every other day or so. Depending on the type of seed you might see some seeds popping after 2-3 days. Others might take a little bit longer.
You may also get a few ‘bad’ seeds that just don’t want to germinate. This is normal.
Germinating seeds with paper towel: simple and effective
Despite its simplicity, germinating seeds with paper towel is highly effective. It also has the added benefit of using commonly available materials from around the house.
Once your seeds pop you are ready to move them into a hydroponic growing system.
Do you have a neat trick for germinating seeds? Growing anything tasty? Let us know in the comments below!