There are several different methods of germinating seeds for your hydroponic garden. Using the wet paper towel method is a classic way of germinating seeds.
Don’t let the simplicity fool you, the paper towel method of germinating seeds can be quite effective.
Why Would You Germinate Seeds In A Paper Towel
With other ways of germinating seeds, why would one use the paper towel method? The main reasons are cost and availability. Everyone has some paper towels and plastic bags around their house.
One of the reasons I like to use germinate seeds using the paper towel method is it allows me not to waste seeds, which can come in handy with some more valuable seeds. Typically you’d want to plant several seeds per grow medium to increase your chances of a successfully germinated seedling, then trim them back if more than one pops. Using the paper towel method I take only successfully popped seeds and place them into the grow medium, so no thinning is required.
The paper towel method is also useful when germinating seeds that may be “old”. You can place a bunch in the paper towel and only plant the ones that pop.
How To Germinate Seeds In A Paper Towel
Seeds need 3 environmental conditions to germinate: darkness, warmth, and moisture. All of which can be provided with the paper towel method.
The process of germinating seeds in a paper towel can meet these requirements and is super simple to do!
Step 1- Get a bag and paper towel
If you’re not planting many seeds then just a single paper towel and a sandwich bag will do the trick. If you have thin paper towels or they’re half sheets, you’ll probably want to use two.
Step 2- Fold and wet the paper towel
Before getting the paper towel wet you’ll want to fold it. It should be folded in a way that after getting it wet, you can place your seeds on it, fold it over, and put it in the baggie.
Wet your paper towel. It should be completely wet, but not full of water. I typically ring the paper towel out a little to prevent the seeds from drowning.
Step 3- Place seeds in the paper towel
When placing the seeds in the paper towel, make sure to give them a little bit of room. Try to give each seed about a half inch of space, though doesn’t have to be precise.
Step 4- Place the bag in a dark place where it will be kept warm
This is one of the most important steps of germination, not just when using the paper towel method. As we discussed above, seeds need both darkness and warmth to germinate.
Finding a dark spot can be easy. Where it can be difficult is finding a spot that is dark but kept a little warmer. This area can’t be a place that’s warm just sometimes; it needs continual warmth. If you don’t have a seedling heat mat, then it’s time to get creative.
I’m into tech so the first thing I think of is my computer. If your computer runs warm you can set it on or under it to keep the warmth. I’ve also used our home camera DVR box and hot water heater with some success.
Step 5- Check seeds, then transplant
After seeds pop they can start growing pretty quickly. It’s important to remove them soon after sprouting or the seedlings can become elongated, reaching for the light.
If you plan on placings seeds into a grow medium like rapid rooter or rockwool, you can put them in right after they pop. Make sure the grow medium is moist and warm, then drop the seed in the hole of the grow medium. It also helps to put a piece of the grow medium over the hole to block out the light until the seedling reaches above the grow medium.
If you plan on putting seedlings into a loose grow medium like expanded clay, perlite, or dirt, then you want to make sure the root is long enough to reach the moist part of the grow medium with the stem able to hold the leaves above said grow medium. This can be easy to accomplish with perlite and dirt. With expanded clay, you can crush a small amount of the pebbles to make it more suitable for a small seedling.
Using the paper towel method can be a simple, effective, and cheap way to germinate seeds for your hydroponic garden. It can be especially helpful when germinating more valuable seeds and prevent having to destroy successful seedlings through thinning.