How To Germinate Weed Seeds In A Bag

How to Speed up Seed Germination Some seeds grow easily, but others do better when they start out in controlled conditions that mimic their natural environments. Here are some tips to help you How to Grow Seeds in a Plastic Bag. Small seedlings can prove challenging to sprout in the garden bed, since watering or rain may wash them away before they germinate. Growing the seeds in advance inside a plastic bag prevents this issue and helps speed germination. Plastic bag sprouting also allows you to test … Wondering whether your garden seeds will sprout? You can eliminate some of the wait time by germinating seeds in a paper towel before they are planted.

How to Speed up Seed Germination

Some seeds grow easily, but others do better when they start out in controlled conditions that mimic their natural environments. Here are some tips to help you create the right conditions so that your seeds will sprout faster.

The best way to find out the optimal conditions for your plants is to read the information on the seed packet. It will tell you the best planting date, time until bloom, instructions, and any special needs.

One easy way to make seeds germinate faster is to presoak them for 24 hours in a shallow container filled with hot tap water. Water will penetrate the seed coat and cause the embryos inside to plump up. Don’t soak them for longer than 24 hours because they could rot. Plant the seeds immediately in moist soil.

Stratification is the practice of using a period of moist cold to trick seeds into thinking they are experiencing winter. If you are sowing seeds indoors in the spring, soak the seeds and then place them in a zip-top sandwich bag filled halfway with moist, seed-starting medium and then cover them with another inch of medium. Keep the bag in the refrigerator. When the seeds sprout roots, transfer them to pots.

You can also keep seeds that need to be exposed to the cold in pots outdoors in the fall and winter. Spread a thin layer of very fine gravel, such as natural-colored aquarium gravel, over the tops of the pots. Keep the pots close together and bury them to their rims to protect them from severe cold and prevent them from spilling. After the seeds have started to germinate, move the pots to a sheltered nursery area.

Scarification is a process of nicking a seed’s coat with a knife or sandpaper so that moisture can reach the seed’s embryo. You can use a small pocketknife or rat-tail file to remove a very small slice or section of seed coat, or line a jar with a sheet of sandpaper, put the seeds inside, screw on the lid, and shake it. Scarify the seeds just before you are ready to plant them.

It is easy to care for seeds planted in pots. Many gardeners recommend planting seeds thickly in a flat or tray and then repotting individual seedlings in large containers. You can eliminate the need for transplanting by starting a few seeds in 2 ¼-inch or larger pots and then thinning them with scissors or planting them all in your garden.

You can prevent seedling disease by using a commercial “soilless” seed-starting mix. Pour most of the mix into a large bowl and moisten it with water, fill the container to ½ inch below the rim, pack the medium down to eliminate air pockets, pour three or four seeds into the pot, and press them down into the soilless mix. Cover them if you expect them to germinate in a few days or weeks. Keep the medium moist by watering from above with a fine mist or pouring water onto a tray and letting the pots soak it up from the bottom.

Place seedlings in pots on south- or east-facing windowsills so they will get plenty of light. If you don’t have enough space, you can put them indoors under fluorescent lights mounted on chains that can be moved up and down. Seedlings will need 12 to 16 hours of artificial light per day.

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After the seedlings begin to emerge, use a water-soluble fertilizer weekly to encourage growth. Follow recommendations for indoor plants or container plants.

Before you plant your seedlings outdoors, they need to be “hardened off” to prevent them from being damaged by sun, wind, and harsh weather. Move the seedlings to a shady area shielded from harsh wind. Leave them there for a couple of hours on the first day and for gradually longer periods of time. After about a week, they will be ready to plant in the ground. It is best to plant them on a drizzly, gray day or in the late afternoon. Water the seedlings before and after planting them.

How to Grow Seeds in a Plastic Bag

Small seedlings can prove challenging to sprout in the garden bed, since watering or rain may wash them away before they germinate. Growing the seeds in advance inside a plastic bag prevents this issue and helps speed germination. Plastic bag sprouting also allows you to test germination rates, which is vital if you are using saved garden seed or old seed from previous years. Germination time varies depending on the plant variety, but most sprout within three to 14 days.

Stack two paper towels on top of each other. Fold the towels in half and sprinkle them with water until they are completely moistened but not dripping wet.

Spread the seeds out on top the paper towel, covering only half the towel with seeds. Space the seeds so they are not touching and there is about 1/4-inch of space around each seed.

Fold the damp towel in half, sandwiching the seeds between the towels. Press lightly on top the towel so the seeds are in full contact with the towels on both sides.

Slide the paper towel into a plastic zip-top bag. Seal the bag closed to trap the moisture and prevent the towel from drying out.

Set the sealed bag in a warm area, such as on top the refrigerator, where temperatures are between 70 and 80 degrees.

Check the seeds every two days until the seeds begin to swell and the first short sprouts emerge. Sow the seeds immediately in a pot or prepared garden bed at the depth and spacing recommended on the seed package once they begin to sprout.

Things You Will Need

Plastic zip-top bag

Tweezers make it simpler to transplant sprouted seeds without damaging the tender sprout.

How to Pre-Sprout Seeds for Faster Germination

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Wondering whether your garden seeds will sprout? You can eliminate some of the wait time by germinating seeds before they are planted. Learn how to germinate seeds in a paper towel with this tutorial.

One of the most frustrating things about starting vegetables from seeds is waiting for them to emerge from the soil. Germinating seeds in a paper towel is a great method for the impatient gardener, because it lets you see your seeds sprout before they are covered with soil.

I had pepper seeds that were several years old. I hated to throw the package away without checking to see if they were still good. I checked the viability of the seeds by doing a seed germination test using a damp paper towel in baggies.

About half the old seeds sprouted, a 50% germination rate, and the rest were duds. I planted the sprouted seeds and watched the seedlings carefully to see if they would grow. I didn’t expect much from them, but they did grow into healthy transplants that were eventually planted into the garden.

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After experiencing how easy it was to see which seeds germinated using paper towels, I decided to pre-sprout more of my indoor vegetable seeds. Now, I routinely germinate tomato seeds, peppers, eggplants, Swiss chard, cabbage, melons, cucumber, broccoli, squash, cilantro, spinach, and kale on damp paper towels before planting.

How to Germinate a Seed

The seeds of all plants are dormant or inactive until the conditions are right for their germination. A seed begins germinating once it is exposed to warmth and moisture.

First, the seed absorbs moisture and oxygen, which triggers the embryo to wake up. Next, it begins to swell as it breaks down the seed coat, absorbs larger amounts of water and oxygen, and sprouts roots or radicle, followed by the shoot that forms into the stem and foliage.

Benefits of Pre-Sprouting Seeds

Normally, you sow a seed into a growing medium, such as damp seed starting mix or peat pots. You plant the seed, cover with soil, water, place in a warm spot, and wait for the seed to sprout and break through the soil surface.

The paper towel method of starting seeds lets you germinate the seeds first, and then you can place the sprouted seed with the root into a seedling container to grow. You can see the seed and don’t have to wonder if it is doing anything under the soil. Other advantages of pre-sprouting your seeds include:

  • Saves money: Instead of throwing away older seed packages, you can germinate seeds in paper towels to see if some of the old seeds are still viable.
  • Conserves space: You don’t have to sow a whole tray of seeds hoping that at least half will germinate. Instead, you sprout the seeds in a small container, and only plant the ones that germinate. You don’t even need a seedling heat mat.
  • Saves time waiting for seeds to sprout: Pre-sprouting accelerates germination because the seeds can be given ideal moisture, air, and temperature conditions indoors.
  • Excludes the bad seeds: You only plant the seeds that geminate. Simply throw away the duds.
  • Eliminates the need to thin out seedlings: With pre-sprouting, there is no need to toss three or four seeds into a pot and hope at least one will germinate only to have all four seeds sprout forcing you to thin out the extras.

How to Germinate Seeds in a Paper Towel

Pre-sprouting seeds is a method used to germinate seeds on a damp paper towel before they are planted. It is a great gardening hack that speeds up germination by providing the seeds with perfect moisture, air, and temperature conditions indoors.

It may be helpful to review this article on 10 Steps to Starting Seedling Indoors to get your seed starting area setup, and then follow the steps to pre germinate your seeds:

Materials needed:

  • Containers or plastic bags: Any container or zipper bag will work. My favorites to use for pre-sprouting are the plastic see through mini muffin bakery containers or egg cartons. These are divided into small cells that are ideal for organizing and labeling individual seeds. The cover can be snapped closed to keep in moisture. Since the containers are clear, you can check on the seeds without opening the cover.
  • Paper towels: A damp paper towel will help deliver consistent moisture to your seeds without drowning them. Too much moisture will cause your seeds to mold or rot. Coffee filters can also be used, but they are not as absorbent as paper towels, so you’ll need to check the moisture level more frequently.
  • Water resistant labeling material: I cut strips of white duct tape.
  • Permanent marker: Sharpies work well and will not wash away if splashed with water.
  • Spray bottle: A spray bottle filled with water is the easiest way to moisten the paper towels without soaking them.
  • Seeds of choice: Larger seeds seem to work best. Try pre-germinating tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, Swiss chard, melons, cucumber, squash, cilantro, spinach, and cole crops.
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Directions for Germinating Seeds

Before you begin, get your growing containers prepared for planting. Make up several seedling trays or small pots of moist seed starting mix ahead of time so you will be ready to transfer seeds when they sprout.

Step 1: Line your container with a paper towel

I like several layers of paper towels to keep the seeds damp, so I fold them in thirds and cut to fit. If you are using plastic bags, fold and cut your paper towels to fit.

Step 2: Label your containers

Use a water-resistant marker to label your containers or bags.

Step 3: Dampen your paper towels

Spray the paper towels with your spray bottle. You are aiming for the paper towels to be damp, not dripping. If you notice the water pooled in your container, the moisture level will be too high. Dump out the extra.

Step 4: Add your seeds

Spread your seeds on top of the damp paper towel. If you are using containers, simply close the cover. If you are using plastic bags, fold the paper towel over the seeds and place in the bag.

Step 5: Place the seeds in a warm area

Locate your seed containers in a warm area out of direct sunlight and away from drafts, such as near a heater, or on top of the refrigerator. Moderate heat will help your seeds germinate quicker. Room temperature or up to 75 degrees F is average for most seeds. Choose an area where the containers will not be knocked over or forgotten.

Step 6: Check the seeds daily

Examine your seeds each day for germination and to make sure the towel stays damp. Spray the towel if needed.

Step 7: Planting germinated seeds

Some seeds will sprout quicker than others. As soon as a seed shows tiny roots it is ready to plant. Carefully transfer seeds to your prepared seedling containers using a toothpick or tweezers.

Place the sprouted seed on top of your growing medium, cover with dry seedling mix, mist with the spray bottle, and place under the growing lights.

Be very careful not to damage the root. If you do, the sprout will die. If the root has grown into the paper towel, snip around it and plant paper towel and all. Also, don’t remove the seed coat before transplanting, it will come off on its own when the first leaves, also called cotyledons start to unfurl.

Step 8: Keep your seedlings warm and moist

Use your spray bottle to keep the soil surface moist, allow for good airflow, and continue caring for your seedlings as described from step 5 on in this article: 10 Steps to Starting Seedlings Indoors.

Germinating seeds with damp paper towels is a great gardening hack that speeds up sprouting by providing the seeds with ideal environment. Plus you can see the seeds germinate and not have to wonder what is happening under the soil.

This article was originally published on March 5, 2014. It has been updated with additional information, photos, and video.

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