Germinating seeds on wet paper towels

I've been watching videos on YouTube about seed sowing in general in readiness for the spring. There are quite a few videos showing the wet paper towel method and wondered if anyone on the forum has tried it. it would appear that by using this method you know which seeds have germinated before you plant them in the usual way. Would be interested to read your thoughts on the matter. 



  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 19,692

    I've never done it B.Star. You then have to faff about planting them up anyway which can be awkward.

    Pot or tray method for me every time. When you have to prick out or separate, you have something more substantial to deal with, so less damage anyway  image

  • WelshonionWelshonion Posts: 3,115

    I have used this method for sweetcorn for many, many years.  Damp paper in a closed container is best and examine them every day and remove the germinated ones every day.  With some companies I get 98 to 100% germination.

  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 24,038

    It's one of the methods mentioned here

    which was my seed sowing bible for many years when there wasn't much on the internet.

    I've never tried it, the sort of plants I grow need the outdoor method.

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 19,692

    I suppose it will largely depend on what you're sowing too.

    I don't grow many tender or tricky things. Hardy stuff mainly.

    Do you separate the seedling from the paper Welshonion, or do you simply plant them with the paper attached - ie split/tear the paper ? I can see that being easier than trying to remove the little seedling. image

  • OnopordumOnopordum Posts: 390

    I've used this method successfully for both sweet and edible peas. Damp/wet paper towel in a flat bowl, seeds spaced out then covered with clingfilm. When they germinate, I just lift each seedling individually and plant in a deep pot / Rootrainer. Ideally plant as soon as you see that germination is happening i.e. swollen, coat cracked and radicle (root) emerging.Since the seeds germinate at different rates, you need to check them daily and pot up the ones that have germinated.

    I haven't had any problems even with ones that have been left a day or two too long and the radicle has grown out over the paper - if you're careful it lifts off OK.

  • Bright starBright star Wrea GreenPosts: 473

    I will probably have a go at this method just to experiment a bit, it will be reassuring to know that the seed I'm planting has germinated and won't be wasted. 

  • Zoomer44Zoomer44 Posts: 2,907

    I tried it last year with seeds whose sow by date had gone. Those that germinated were potted into small modules. It worked well. Did as Onopordum did. 

    For small seeds I used tweezers to pick them off the kitchen paper.

    Large seeds are easier to handle, peas, beans, sweet corn and sweetpea can easily be germinated. 

  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Todmorden, West YorksPosts: 3,833

    I find it's a good method for "found it at the back of the shelf" packets of unknown age - you can see if they are viable by sowing a sample few seeds on damp paper first.  If they germinate it's worth sowing the rest in the normal way.

    "Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change"    Stephen Hawking
  • hi bright star      I do a combo/  of a the answers I have used pape towels but I space them out in rows and do as fairygirl says split paper ( I may say that I have only done this a a experiment  and it works  I have tried a few things and they work ( and I do some times soak my big seeds in warm water for a couple hours //beet root I soak overnight and a better germination   but saying all that I still go back to paper pots or make plug plants as long as I have tried something new and works keep it in the store head)   hope some help  michael

  • aym280   hi    yes I don't mind trying ideas I have allways done new things I have a few trays and covers for plug and have just got 9 x 80 plugs for I am going to try and do what a member is doing as I am expecting 600 sets soon  and will put in modules to start of the only difference will have to make hole larger     Michael

  • PosyPosy Posts: 976

    I was told that parsnips could be difficult to germinate in the ground but that they disliked being disturbed when started in trays so I germinated them on paper towel and planted them the minute they showed signs of life. It worked really well, they are the only vegetable I have ever grown with total success.

  • Bright starBright star Wrea GreenPosts: 473

    It would seem more sensible to spread the seeds out, the last think i would want is to be untangling sprouted seed shoots. So far I've sown the seeds into small trays and then pricked out in the traditional way which I find very satisfying. I've also sown into the jiffy pots which works a treat too, I'm also going to have a shot at making some seed tapes out of tiolet paper for the nigella  which I will lay  on the soil and then cover over and see what happens. So much to learn and experiment with. ?

  • PalaisglidePalaisglide Posts: 3,137

    At school many years ago we always had mustard and cress growing on blotting paper on class room window sills which we got to take home, our own eggs and school growm cress for tea lovely. We also grew beans or set them off in jam jars,  ball of blotting paper with a couple of beans pushed down the side so we saw them start to root watching the roots grow longer daily. It was wartime so with the help of teachers and the caretaker we had our own gardens which grew everything later used for the school lunches, we had one cook who cooked cabbage properly, the trend then was to boil it to death. Many of the seeds were nurtured in the class rooms before being planted out. Nothing new about setting seed on paper Dad often started his Ailsa Craig tomatoes in washed sand, my own experience is seeing seedlings from last years tomato's grow in the gravel bed.


  • PosyPosy Posts: 976

    An old cook book of my Mum's advised boiling cabbage for 20 minutes - yum. If you are sprouting seeds on paper in order to plant them, you never let them grow long enough to get tangled, you plant them as soon as they germinate. The children in primary school still grow cress and beans as Frank remembers. my grandson grew his cress in an eggshell with a face drawn on it so it looks like funny hair.

  • Bright starBright star Wrea GreenPosts: 473

    I did that with my kids too posy, and then got creative with pair of scissors to style the cress into whacky hairdos ?. Reading your post Palaisglide took me right back to my school days with the broad beans and blotting paper, I'd totally forgotten about it. 

  • hi amy280   I am going to put my onion sett in modules to get a good start in g/house only thing different is will have to make a larger hole and  trickle bit of growmore in base of hole  then plant sets put strips of red yellow and hazard tape around sets to keep birds  ( ithink it is chris 72 that also dose his sets in modules also    Michael

  • hi posy yes       you are right parsnips don't like to be moved about ..the way I do mine and never had any trouble is I grow mine in paper pots a couple seeds in each pot let them grow when they come snip weakest on off  let grow to a few inchs then plant out and cover with net     Michael

  • hi amy280 sorry been a while to answer been inhospital   when you think amy I grow mine in membrane  I put them 4ins apart when I have transplanted sets about 10x10ft and a smaller bit with red also useualy some space for sprouts ( the main reason we grow so many is that the makes loads of wife makes loads of chutney last year 74 jars pickles beet cue relish   and anything else that go,s  Michael    amy with membrane you don't get many weeds

    Last edited: 20 January 2017 16:56:01

  • hi amy280   just reading what I said I use2x10 x10ft lenths  and a smaller bit ( I got on line some matting for water  saving I got 3mtrs and you can cut it to shape a few weeds come up but minimul amounts the matting I put trays on grow bag trays use a fine rose to water on top then when it soaks up few hours later just water trays(  make sure the trays are level   I have a spirt level   ha ha )  Michael

  • I know this is an old thread but I've just started off some peas and dwarf beans on moist kitchen paper in a shallow tray, covered with clingfilm.  Now I'm wondering whether I should have laid another layer of damp kitchen paper on top, and whether they should be in the dark or in the light. Can anyone help?  I thought I'd try this because I'm tired of getting very low germination rates via the trough and direct sowing methods.

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