An old, not-very-secret trick gardeners have is to soak seeds overnight before planting; it softens the seed coat and makes seeds sprout 2 or 3 times faster than normal. I am horribly impatient, so I always soak my seeds. And it's easy enough to do with big honking seeds like peas and pumpkin, but what about the really tiny ones?
Lettuce and carrot seeds are not only itty-bitty, they also have long germination times of 2 to 4 weeks, so they are ideal candidates for this method, which combines "seed soaking" with "seed taping". The result is seeds that sprout quickly, and are spaced out so that thinning is minimal. I've been doing this method for the last couple of years, and it has worked really well for me, even for slightly bigger seeds like basil and cilantro. Hope it will work out for you too!
Step 1: Gather Your Stuff
You will need
- paper towels that are strong enough not to fall apart when wet
- spray bottle of water
- a flat container that can be covered, with lid or saran wrap
- *optional facial tissue, or just more paper towels
(I'm using Black-Eyed Susan seeds here, and they are the tiniest ones I've worked with so far! It's literally thin as a hair!)
Step 2: Sprinkle Your Seeds on the Paper Towel
Lay your paper towel on the container (I've got a fancy new cake pan here) and sprinkle your seeds on.
Move them around as needed to space them out.
Step 3: Spray, Layer, Spray Again
Pretty much what it says in the title: Spray it lightly just so your seeds will stick to the paper and won't get jostled. Lay the tissue paper on top. Spray again until it's thoroughly saturated, but not dripping.
Step 4: Cover Up and Wait
Was in a rush and did not get a pic, but cover your container with saran wrap, or in my case, matching lid of my fancy new cake pan. Wait at least 8 hours, but 24 is even better, but make sure to keep it moist the whole time.
You can do this with larger seeds, but for really large seeds, I worry that the paper towel is not enough to soak it, and I prefer to soak them in a bowl, before putting them on paper towel.
Step 5: Plant It, Paper and All
After this "soaking" period, place your whole sheet of paper towel onto prepared ground, cover with more soil or mulch, and watch your seedlings emerge in just a few days instead of 2 or 3 weeks! They will grow right through the paper towel, I promise! I usually just leave it as is, but if seeing the paper towel bothers you, wait until the seedlings are established and tear it away.
And you're not limited to the size and shape of the paper towel either. Cut it into strips or other shapes if it amuses you. Or cut into tiny shapes for your seed starter peat pots. I often use a small piece studded with seeds in a garden container to fill in where something has failed, or I decided to move it. The second pic there is showing how I used this method to plant all the lettuce surrounding the other plants, when I realized how sparse it looks at the bottom. It took just over one month for them to go from seeds to what you see there, from April 19th to today May 23. Not too shabby!
Hope this was clear and helpful! Happy growing!