May is the time for bringing a breath of fresh air into our homes. Whether we’re rejuvenating our living spaces with a spring clean, or freshening up our decor with bright new colors, it feels good to be in sync with this season of renewal. For many of us, planting new seeds (literally!) is a meaningful way to embrace the potential of spring.
If you’re planning to garden this year, you’re probably picking out seeds and getting ready to germinate them. To get things growing faster, you can actually germinate seeds in paper towels and a sandwich bag—no soil needed! This simple method will help you skip the clutter and complication of seed starting trays, domes, or temperature sensors.
Since Viva® Multi-Surface Cloth™ paper towels are professional grade, they’re just right for the job, providing a textured bed for your seeds to germinate. So grab yourself a roll of Viva®, and follow our step-by-step guide on how to germinate seeds in paper towels. We’ve also included advice on why this method works, and what seeds to try it with, so you have the knowledge you need to make your spring planting projects a success!
If you’re new to gardening, or simply used to starting seeds in soil, you might be wondering why the paper towel method is a good option. There are plenty of reasons why gardening experts recommend this simple, tried-and-true approach:
Using a paper towel to germinate seeds is a great space saver, which means you can start more seeds at once.
In the step-by-step guide below, you’ll see how seeds are germinated compactly inside a damp paper towel, then placed in a sandwich bag. Instead of taking over your whole kitchen table with starting trays that may never end up sprouting, these neatly sealed bags can simply be placed on a south-facing window ledge.
Once seeds are planted in soil, all you can do is wait and hope for the best. But with the paper towel method, you can see through the clear bag and actually watch the seeds germinate.
Besides being very satisfying to watch, this process allows you to pick out the most robust and fast-growing seeds to transfer into soil and grow into full-fledged plants. You can also set aside any seeds that don’t end up germinating and toss them in your compost pile.
The paper towel method creates prime conditions for seeds to germinate in less time. Depending on the type of seed, the controlled moisture and heat conditions within the bag can enable seeds to germinate in a few days. You’ll have a home or garden filled with bright new leaves in no time!
This method is incredibly versatile, as it creates the perfect germination conditions for many different vegetable, fruit, herb, and flower seeds.
Hearty vegetable lovers can try turnips, broccoli, and squash. Depending on the climate of where you live, you can experiment with fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, and strawberries. For beginner gardeners, tomatoes, peas, and zucchini are good options to start with.
The warm conditions created by the paper towel method are also especially helpful for seeds that usually take a long time to germinate. You can put it to the test with more slow-growing seeds like asparagus or chili pepper.
Once you’ve selected which seeds you want to plant, it’s time to start germinating. We’ve broken down our paper towel method into a few simple steps:
To prep your seeds for germination using the paper towel method, you only need a few simple supplies. Make sure you have all of the below on hand before you begin:
Take a paper towel and run it lightly under the tap. Make sure the paper towel is damp, but not soaking. If seeds get too wet, they may end up rotting before they’re able to sprout.
We recommend using Viva® Multi-Surface Cloth™ paper towels because they stay strong even when damp.
Take the seeds you wish to germinate and place them on the top half of your paper towel. Make sure to leave an inch between each seed so they have room to grow.
Fold the paper towel over the seeds so they’re sandwiched between two layers of damp paper towel. If you’re germinating tomato seeds, experts recommend rolling the paper towel into a loose cylinder.
Take the paper towel with the seeds inside and slip it carefully into a sandwich bag. (You can blow into the bag to open it wide and make it easier to insert the paper towel without disturbing the seeds). Adding air to the bag will also help create the moist, warm conditions for germination, similar to a greenhouse.
Put the bags in a warm, sun-filled area of your home, such as a south-facing window ledge.
If your window ledge isn’t wide enough, you could also place them on top of a bookshelf or fridge that’s near a window. Bathroom windows are a great option as steamy showers and baths add some extra humidity to promote faster germination.
Now it’s time for the fun part! Check your seeds every day to see if a small, white root has started to split through the seed coat (the outer layer of the seed that peels away as the root breaks through).
You’ll also want to make sure the paper towel doesn’t dry out. If it starts to look dry, open the bag and use a spray bottle to spritz a little more water, being careful not to oversaturate.
Once the root is an inch or two long, it’s time to transfer it to potting soil. Don’t worry if some of your seeds don’t sprout, as this is to be expected.
The root is very delicate, so you need to be careful when transferring seedlings into small, indoor pots of soil.
Use a gentle grip (or tweezers) to pick up your seedling by the seed coat. Make a small hole in the soil for the root, then place the seedling into the hole. Only the white part of the root should be beneath the soil, with the green stem and seed coat above the soil line. Then, gently cover the hole with soil.
In a few weeks, the seedlings should be strong enough to plant outdoors, depending on the climate where you live. Before planting outside, wait until your seeds have sprouted their second set of leaves (known as true leaves), and the temperature is above 55°F. Check the seed packet for the exact ideal planting temperature for the fruit, vegetable, or flower you are working with.
And that’s that! Clean up any stray soil with a Viva® Multi-Surface Cloth™ paper towel, and enjoy the fresh new influx of green into your home or garden. It’s truly amazing to see how a little extra plant life can rejuvenate your mood, productivity, and wellness. Embrace all that this season has to offer, and let your happiness bloom!
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