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The Baggie Method

11 years ago


There are many different ways to germinate seeds. The Baggie Method is fun and easy to do. This FAQ started as a post on the Growing From Seed Forum and was posted by "Taryn" on Thu, Mar 6, 03. Other tips in the FAQ have been shared by "Valray", "Henry_Kuska", and "Glen_Cdn_Prairies_z3".

Taryn writes of her method:

"I've had several people email me privately to elaborate on the coffee filter/baggie method I've referred to a few times. So, since there are a lot of newbies to this forum who might not know about it, I thought I'd elaborate publically on this variation of 'the paper towel method'.

I presprout nearly all my seeds using coffee filters and baggies, then transplant sprouts to soilless mix in cellpacks. I use round basket-type coffee filters because the paper is denser than paper towels, so the roots don't get enmeshed in it as easily.

Here's what I do:

1) With masking tape and a Sharpie waterproof marker, mark a ziplock baggie with seed type, date, and any pertinent info about germ temps/stratifying/light required.

2) Wet a coffee filter, then squeeze out excess moisture so it is just damp, not wet.

3) Imagining it as a pie, sow your seeds on 1/4 of the pie, then fold filter in half, then in half again. Your seeds should have one layer of filter on one side, three layers on the other.

4) Place the folded filter into the ziplock back, puff a little air in the baggie, then seal, leaving it just slightly puffed, not completely flat.

5) Place in warm place to germinate or in a tupperware container in the fridge (so they don't get squished by the cucumbers!) for cold strat, and wait....

Voila, little mini-greenhouse!

Check baggies every few days, and remoisten as needed. Even if one doesn't appear to need remoistening, don't let them go over a week without opening them up for some fresh air. I use a mister bottle with 1:20 hydrogen peroxide:water to help prevent mold and mildew from forming. You could use chamomile tea too if that is what you currently use. For seeds that need light, keep them with the single layer of filter up, and in bright light, though not direct sunlight. If they need dark, put in a drawer or cupboard.

I have used this method with great success for many types of seeds, including very small ones. It does take some practice transferring them from the filter to the cellpacks, and I use a couple of toothpics for this procedure, transplanting them as they sprout. I premoisten my soilless mix (5 cups mix to 3 cups hot/boiling water), let cool, then fill the cellpacks lightly. There shouldn't be large airpockets, but it also shouldn't be packed down. Don't forget to relabel the cellpacks. Pick up seeds/seedlings using a wet toothpic, handling only the seedcoats/leaves, not the stem or root. Use a 2nd toothpic as a dibble, making a tiny hole or larger depending on the root. Larger seeds like Datura I move with my fingers. Put them root down, firm the mix around them and pop them under the lights.

What have I germinated this way? This year, since February 16th:

Aruncus aethusifolius
Buddleia davidii (blue)
Buddleia davidii (pink)
Buddleia davidii (purple)
Buddleia davidii (white)
Callirhoe involucrata
Caryopteris divaricata
Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Dark Knight and Longwood Blue, mixed'
Caryopteris x clandonensis 'First Choice'
Corydalis Sempervivens
Datura discolor , white with violet throat
Datura metel 'Ballerina Purple' aka 'Double purple'
Datura metel 'Double white'
Datura metel 'la Fleur lilac'
Datura metel 'Triple yellow'
Heteropappus meyendorfii Blue Knoll Strain
Hibiscus moscheutos (pink)
Pulsatilla vulgaris
Rudbeckia hirta 'Gloriosa Daisy'
Salvia argentea
Salvia lyrata 'Burgandy Bliss'
Salvia sclarea turkestanica
Seseli gummiferum
Tanacetum niveum
Thalictrum aquilegifolium
Tricyrtis hirta variegata
Verbena bonariensis

And many other varieties in past years, including Hellebores. All the Datura varieties were starting to germ, after nicking and soaking overnight, within 24 hours. Caryopteris, 48 hours. Many, many other seeds I sowed on March 4th, so I am awaiting germination still. I can list them as they start to germ if anyone would like this information.

There are many ways to grow from seed, and this may be too fussy for some with the extra transplanting step. But the benefits for me, besides the fast germination, is that only viable plants go under my limited growlight space. I have 8 flats of cellpacks already and only room under the lights for 12, so that space is very precious! It is way too cold to fire up the greenhouse yet...

This is just a variation on 'the paper towel method', which was explained to me several years ago by past posters, so I'm just passing on the version that has worked the best for me. Hope it helps some of you germ those trickier seeds, or even just make this winter go a bit faster by experimenting with your extra ones."



Valray adds.....

"My two cents worth... it's best to keep the baggies vertical (rather than laying them flat) and the filters always the same way "up." This means the roots go down between the sheets of paper rather than into them. And the roots know which which way is up and it doesn't keep changing when the baggie gets moved around."


Henry Kuska suggests his variation in which he uses sand instead of paper to sow his seeds in....

"I like sand rather than paper. No embedded roots problem; just rinse the sand away. Also it is easy to see if the sand is too wet or too dry from the color.

I use 5 ml of drugstore type 3 % hydrogen peroxide to 95 ml of water for every watering including the first."


Glen_Cdn_Prairies_z3 adds his suggestions......

1) "For perennials, when using baggies / moist towels in the fridge to stratify the seed, in my experience maybe 50% of species germinate right in the fridge. The other 50% of species get 0% germination in fridge but will only germinate on the shift to warm temps and light after stratification."

2) "For really tiny, dust-like seed, moist paper towels (and I suspect coffee filters) are no good for stratification. The seed disappears into the paper fabric. For this seed, I use 1 cm of moist soilless mix in baggie, sprinkle the seed on it, then put in fridge. When I feel they've been in the fridge long enough, I take the baggie out of the fridge, fill a pot full of soilless mix, wet it, and spread the soilless mix from the baggie on top of it using a knife and spreading it on top like peanut butter."


Thanks again to Taryn, Val, Henry, and Glen for sharing their creative ideas and contributing to this very informative FAQ on germinating seeds in a baggie.


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