Bare root seed starting

Bare-root seed starting

It doesn’t get simpler than this for seed starting in controlled conditions: the bare root approach. Spread seeds on paper towel, place another paper towel on top, mist with a spray bottle, roll up (don’t forget to mark the rolls if you are doing more than one), and place in a ziploc-type sealable plastic bag.  Then, put the bag in a warm spot, light not required. Be sure to check on the seeds daily, as they can use the oxygen! Within a few days, you will see the little white radicle tip emerge, and from there it is root growth in action. When to take them out is open to experimention: all the veggie seeds I’ve come across are pretty tough and wanting to grow, given the minimum reasonable conditions, so you can plant right at germination, or a couple days down the line with more root. As always, there are lots of variables to consider, play around with, and so forth, but you should be generally fine no matter what. Since I usually only do this for germination tests, I don’t actually plant them (cruel, huh?!). Other materials than paper towels (they shred easily when wet, an advantage when separating if roots start growing into them) and plastic bags could be used—kinda interesting, a while back I checked the book and called my certification agency to see whether there were organic standards for the paper towels used with this method, since they are in such intimate contact with the seeds at such an early stage and who knows what’s in the paper, but no…this is not covered, anything goes, if you’re certified, this would be, well, certified organic. Anyhow, this year, these seeds are for production: here, it’s sweet peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes! We’ll see how it goes!

Germination in ziploc

NOTE: Yeah, I am still messing around with my phone camera and the sometimes cheesy photo filter effects in Instagram for Android…

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4 Responses to “Bare root seed starting”

  1. It’s called “chitting” (just like with potatoes) and I did it for my corn this year to make sure I got good germination rates. It worked like a charm – they germinated in less than two days and now the plants are 6 inches tall and perfectly healthy.

  2. Linda says:

    That is interesting. I have tested my old seeds this way. I would imagine a person could make planting tape of sorts in a similar manner… wet, roll up, and when sprouted lay on ground where they should go, cover with soil lightly… it would work for equidistant plantings… perhaps?

    • Mike (tfb) says:

      Something like that should work. I’ve seen commercial seed tape for home garden use on the seed racks, haven’t examined. This also brings to mind seed pelleting and seed balls. If you can coat or enclose small seed particularly in something that absorbs water, allows air, and maybe has nutrients, germination would be improved. Just seed direct and water in.

      I also read on a blog (forget where) about a tiny farm where they did all the seeding by hand, instead of using a seeder. And I think they pelletized the seed. The idea was, the (huge amount of :) extra time spent hand placing seed, was more than made up for in not having to thin, having optimum spacing from the start, and ultimately better yield. I’m fairly sure they pelleted, if placing only one seed at a time, you’d want to be pretty confident it would germinate.

      If only we who want to could spend all our time in lo-tech experimenting like this, of course, never going down the technology path TOO far. Hahahaha. :)

  3. Lynn says:

    Wish I had done this with my cabbage seeds… I started 72 cabbage starts and only had 6 germinate.

  4. James Mann says:

    I like this technique and have purchased seeds strips that look similar. Just hadn’t thought of trying it myself. So I guess I now have a new project to try out.

    I have a few areas in our yard that need some flowers. I think this methods of starting seeds would be a great way to mix a bunch of seeds to produce a pretty cool flower patch for those areas.

    Glad I dropped by and found this article.

  5. GardenMann says:

    I usually sow seeds for my beans and peas directly in the vegetable garden but this year I thought I would germinate them in damp paper towels and put them on the fridge where it’s warmer.

    Well I just remembered them once I saw your post this morning and they are a dry as they were before I started. I guess I shouldn’t have pushed them back so far. Out of sight out of mind.

    It might be a little late to start again but I’m going to start over and just plant them a bit later this year.

    My wife is still laughing at me.

  6. Yes. I did this on my okra and varying other plants with great success this year. Sprout in towels ->transport to starter trays -> move to garden. They are now five feet high and I have to harvest daily.

    In my case it is partially about germination. I bought a pickup bed full of seed packets from a local nursery after a haboob blew the entire display into the parking lot and tipped it over. Ruined for retail, great for my experimenting. But I can only plant so many seeds each year. So I test them now like this and get better rates and success.

    But I also want to be more intimate to what I grow. I learn a lot by doing, and gently fiddling with my seeds and plants teaches me a great deal about them.

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