Pre-Sprouting Seeds




About: I am a teacher outside of Boston and I love making cool stuff! Any prizes I'm lucky enough to win will go directly to my classroom (when appropriate) where I teach 6-12th grade English & Social Studies (...

Pre-sprouting, or pre-germinating, is an easy and inexpensive way of maximizing your plant growing success. By pre-sprouting your seeds before you put them into soil you rid yourself that pesky wait time between sowing the seeds and seeing them sprout---which often feels like it's taking forever and can lead to you forgetting about the future plant altogether.

Pre-sprouting is also a great way to see if the old seeds you have laying around are still good. All seed packets come with an expiration date, but that doesn't mean that packet of seeds from 2009 won't germinate. Some seeds are harder to germinate, like Pink Bananas, or hot peppers (Ghost Peppers are said to be tough, I'm currently working on it). So Pre-sprouting your tougher seeds will save you a lot of time, energy, and money. I bought Ghost Pepper seeds at $5/10 seeds.

Using this technique, your seeds could begin sprouting in 24-48 hours, a lot faster than the 7-14 days listed on many seed packets.

Step 1: Materials

Plastic baggies

Paper towel or coffee filter


Heating pad (optional)

Sharpie (or whatever you prefer for labeling)

Seed Starting Soil

Transplant containers

Step 2: The Bag

Identify which seeds you want to sprout first and then set up the baggies with your labels. I tend to include the date I started the pre-germination, the type of vegetable, and how many seeds I'm germinating. Labeling first helps me stay organized.

The purpose of the plastic baggy is to keep the seeds and paper towel moist, eliminating the need to water the seed.

Step 3: The Paper

Moisten your paper towel or coffee filter with water. You don't want it dripping, too much water can promote mold growth. Put your seeds on the paper and then fold the paper over.

The first picture shows Aeropress paper filters, the second regular paper towel. I also started some seeds with regular coffee filters, but I think I forgot to take a picture.

I'm doing succession planting this year, which is why I'm only using 2-3 seeds per vegetable.

Step 4: The Bag Returns

Place your seeds in their respective baggies and gently press the air out. Now some people say to press the air from the bag and then seal it. Some people say not to seal it. Others say to seal it, but don't press the air out. I've tried all of these and I haven't noticed a difference. I think what makes the biggest difference in the pre-germinating process is setting up your seeds and germinating them at the right temperature. Tomatoes that need 80 degrees to germinate are not going to if the temperature is 70.

Whatever bag closing method you chose, make sure to put it in a warm area (or on top of a heating pad) and keep out of direct sunlight.

Step 5: The Wait...

Some seeds will sprout quicker than others so make sure you are checking your bags daily. Along with evidence of sprouting, you want to make sure the paper towel doesn't try out and you want to make sure no fuzzies or evidence of mold is growing.

I don't recommend using Aeropress filters as they seemed to attract mold right away and out of the 5 different seeds I set up, only the Sun Gold Tomatoes sprouted and were mold free.

Paper towel and regular coffee filters are much more successful and didn't give me any mold problems. They also stayed moist longer than the Aeropress filters.

Step 6: Germination!

The seeds pictured are all tomatoes and it only took 2 days for them to germinate. Now, they need to be transplanted into soil to continue growing into seedlings (also to avoid decay).

Moving the seed to their transplant container needs to be done as carefully as possible to minimize shock or damaging the teeny sprout. If you accidentally break the root, the sprout will die.

Step 7: Transplant

Carefully transfer each sprout into its transplant pot. I'm using paper rolls (instructable coming) that are filled with seed starting mix. Each sprout goes into the mix, root down.

If your sprout started growing into the paper towel (as one of my Roma seeds, first picture) simply cut around it and then transplant it into soil paper and all.

Keep your sprouts warm and moist, but avoid watering the plant directly or over-water. You can continue seedling growth under a light or in a windowsill in a warm area.



    • Paper Contest

      Paper Contest
    • Organization Contest

      Organization Contest
    • Warm and Fuzzy Contest

      Warm and Fuzzy Contest

    8 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Awesome advice! I am going to try this, and hopefully my gardening efforts will be less failure prone :)


    2 years ago

    I do this every year but I use 2 liter plastic soda bottles as a green house then when the seeds have sprouted I use those same bottles to plant them. So far I've had no failures except for when I forgot to water them. So now I use those tiny salt like granules that come inside diapers to hold water. I mix it in with the dirt and when I water they grow up to 10 times their original size and weight (not that I would water that much but it's good to know in case I go on vacation for a week). So if you forget to water or go away you needn't worry because there will be enough water to last a few days.

    1 reply
    always curious

    2 years ago

    Thank you for this wonderful instruction. I am living in Europe temporarily,in a poverty rife country, so cannot find seed raising mix or even good potting mixes. Lots of gardens and vegetable growing around and in the villages, but I have a small town terrace only, no access to good soil and trying to use recycled bottles etc for planting as much as possible, plus containers to hang along terrace. At the moment also trying for Basil & chives, but I have never had much success with seeds . SO THANK YOU - NO LONGER WILL I HAVE TO WAIT FOR SOMETHING GREEN TO APPEAR OR NOT APPEAR! Going to do it NOW with basil, lemon balm, tomatoes and coriander seeds. Thanks again.


    2 years ago

    Many thanks for this instructable. I have some seeds that I have never got around to planting, so cannot wait to give it a try.


    2 years ago

    Hi NT, I have found that the hotter the pepper the longer it takes to germinate. I tried to leach the seeds by placing them in water and changing the water every few hours. After two days, plant the seed. I used to plant my habaneros three weeks before my medium hot jalapenos. Give it a try.



    2 years ago

    I've never been able to sprout seeds. So discouraging. Thank you for this information. Can't wait to try!