How to Give Your Seeds a Head Start Before Planting

the best way to start seeds

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I’m sure I’m not in the minority when I say I just can’t wait for spring.  Sunlight, warmer weather, and all those little signs of new life are so exciting, year after year.  Gardening has become a hobby of mine, and something that I enjoy learning more about every year.  This year will be my sixth year of growing a garden, but I’ve learned so much along the way.  I learned this little trick last year and gave it a try, and it has changed the way I start seeds.  I can use old seeds from seasons past, test them, and give them the jump start they need to start growing quickly and healthily.

This seed starting technique is called pre-germination, and I originally read about it in the book Starting Seeds: How to Grow Healthy, Productive Vegetables, Herbs, and Flowers from Seed by Barbara Ellis.  Pre-germination helps you know which seeds are healthy and viable before ever needing to plant them.  Last season, I finally harvested some of the seeds from the plants I grew, and now with this technique, I can pre-germinate them to make sure they all sprout, before planting them in starter pots or in the ground.

Although I’m not sharing a technique that’s new to me in this post, I am sharing it in a new way!  I started a YouTube channel, and this pre-germination video will be my first one.  (I would sure love for you to subscribe to my new channel.  I promise there will be some great little DIY tutorials coming soon!)

Take a look at how I now start my seeds every winter/spring.

In the video, you can see that I placed the seeds on a paper towel laid out on a baking sheet.  This method allows for a lot of surface area, and therefore a lot of seeds.  It’s important to cover the entire pan with plastic wrap, and to check that the paper towel stays damp.  If it appears to dry out, just spray it with water.

A couple of other tricks that will help you pre-germinate your seeds.

  • As soon as you see the seeds begin to sprout, plant them!  If you let them sit on the paper towel for too long, they may try to root in the paper towel, making it hard to remove them without causing damage.
  • It’s difficult to pre-germinate very small seeds, like thyme or oregano.  It’s difficult to lift the tiny seeds off the paper towel, but it can be done with a gentle touch!
  • Check to make sure the paper towel stays damp to the touch.  Too much water and too little water can be harmful to the seeds.
  • Coffee filters can be used in place of the paper towels.  I’ve actually heard many people claim that they retain the perfect amount of moisture for seeds, but I’ve had yet to try them, because the paper towels work so well for me.
  • Plant the seeds in the soil sprout side up.
  • Use a seed starting mix – it’s light and allows the seeds to easily germinate.

how to pre germinate seeds

Another method is to use plastic containers with lids.  You can reuse those take out containers or any sort of storage container.

how to start seeds

After dampening the paper towel and placing the seeds on top, you’ll just want to cover the container with the lid, but not seal it.  With this method, I rarely need to spray the paper towels, because the lids let out very little moisture.

how to start seeds tutorial

The third way to pre-germinate your seeds it to dampen the paper towel, lay your seeds on top, spaced apart, and then loosely fold up the paper towel and place it in a ziplock bag.  Close the bag part way, and then wait a couple of days for your seeds to begin sprouting.

I’ll never go back to just planting seeds in the ground or my starter pots without pre-germinating my seeds first!  It’s amazing how quickly they start to sprout when I use this technique.

diy potting bench made only with 2 x 4s tutorial

My DIY potting bench made entirely of 2 x 4s is already getting some good use, but I can’t wait to be able to actually start planting these seedlings in the ground this spring.

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