pre-sprouting seeds

It’s blue-lips cold outside. About the only gardening chore I have besides ordering seeds is thinking. And one problem with reading about planting vegetables while it’s warm out is that it’s warm out. You don’t want to be reading.

So I figured I’d post this now, and maybe you’ll be more likely to read it than when it’s 75° outside and there’s a garden to plant.

I first tried this method with peas, because no matter how much care I took, how much innoculant I used, my pea crop usually consisted of about four plants.

It’s called pre-sprouting. Dead simple, and at least for me, 100% effective. The concept is to give the little buggers a head start in life before you throw them to the cold soil wolves.

First, take two paper towels and fold them over into a single square, and then do the same with an additional two towels. Wet both double squares and squeeze out the excess water. They should be damp, but don’t need to be soggy. Un-scrunch the towels and make them nice and square again. Place one doubled square onto a small plate that’ll fit inside a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag.

seeds and plate

Figure out about how many seedlings you’ll want, and place that many seeds onto the wet towel. I try to space mine so that I’ll be able to pick them up easily later without problems…not too close to each other. Then take the remaining wet double paper towel square and cover the seeds. Fold the edges over so the seeds don’t fall out. Put the whole lot into the bag and seal it.

seeds in paper towel

Put the paper-towel-seeds-plate in a room-temperature area and go goof off. About three days later, open the plastic bag and check progress. They’ll likely have curly little roots emerging from their seedy bottoms. Check frequently, because you don’t want the roots to get so long that they break off in planting. When the majority of seeds have roots from 1/2″ to 1″ long, it’s time to plant. You’ll want to place them at the depth you normally would, but be careful not to damage the roots, and put the root side down.

No need for innoculants, no month of wondering whether you should replant. The green top-shoots will be poking through the soil shortly.

I’ve done this with peas, beans and corn seeds, and it’s worked flawlessly every single time. The rows are always uniform and full.

Now go look at a seed catalog.

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5 thoughts on “pre-sprouting seeds

  1. I will definitely be doing this. I used to be confused because all pea and bean packets call for inoculants, and our sprouts were indeed sparse without presprouting or inoculating. Great method– thank you!

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  2. This season I’ve begun using plastic egg containers from Costco and starting seeds in very loose potting soil. I leave it in a southern window and water from my fish tank. The containers are for 24 eggs and I can start rows of different types in very close proximity. Every couple of weeks I pull out the sproutlets and give them new homes. It’s worked for onions, leeks, beets, peas, beans, fenugreek, radishes. Right now I have some purslane, various spinach and lettuce greens cooking in there. When the roots are a couple inches long I bring them to the garden or individual starter pots.

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    • Great ideas. I dont have a fish tank, but that sounds like a great way to get dome nice, mild fertilizer to your seedlings. I might have to try the egg carton idea for this year’s onion seeds. Thanks for visiting!

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