Sprouting seeds in paper towels is fun. You get to see the little root forming and it means you only end up planting seeds that will actually grow into soil saving you space and resources. But, is it really better than sticking your seeds straight in soil?

Controlling Conditions

A lot of people start their veggie seeds indoors before conditions outside are quite ready. When you germinate your seeds in a paper towel it means you have more control over the conditions. It’s hard to find space for lots of pots of soil or a seed starting tray but a ziplock with a load of seeds won’t take up much space at all.

Plus, you can pop it somewhere like the top of your fridge where it’ll stay nice and warm and cosy – the perfect conditions for sprouting seeds.

When it comes to watering, having a damp paper towel inside a ziplock bag creates an environment where any water that would evaporate off is trapped in the bag. Instead of constantly checking how wet the soil is you can just check the bag every now and then to make sure the paper towel hasn’t dried out completely.


Because you can’t really see what’s going on with a seed in soil until it sprouts it’s hard to tell whether germinating seeds in paper towels is actually faster or not. However, I find that once a seed germinates in paper towels and is moved to soil it sprouts pretty quickly in comparison to those planted straight in soil.

I’m going to test this theory out this year so I’ll link that post in when the experiments done.


I live in a pretty small flat and don’t have the luxury of a greenhouse or a specific place to sprout seeds (unless you could on top of the chest of drawers in my bedroom). With ziplock bags you can stack them all up on top of each other and they won’t mind. I have a dedicated spot on top of my fridge for my seeds and it’s not in the way.

Unfortunately it means I tend to sprout way too many seeds and don’t have nearly enough space for all the pots that I need to grow them.

Old Seeds

Sprouting old seeds is where the paper towel method really shines for me. This year I had a load of all cucumber seeds that I kept planting in soil that wouldn’t sprout. Because of Corona I couldn’t go out and get fresh ones so I popped the remaining ones in a damp paper towel sandwich and a few days later they sprouted and now I’ve got a nice little crop of cucumbers!

I’ll also use it for tricky or temperamental seeds where they really need ideal conditions to get started.


A ziplock bag and some paper towels costs far less than all the pots and soil that you use for seed planting. It’s not going to save you a fortune but starting your seeds in paper towels is a pretty cost effective way of getting your vegetable garden going. It also means that if you don’t have access to the right types of soil and pots (thanks Corona!) you can get your seeds going while you wait for the right supplies.

Less Waste

Those cucumbers I mentioned earlier weren’t quite the failures I thought they were. After a few weeks of watering the soil and getting nothing I mixed it into the garden soil in my square foot garden. A couple of weeks later and guess what started popping up all over the place. Cucumbers! I’d assumed the seeds were too old to germinate but if I’d used the paper towel method I would have known the seeds were viable and would have had a bit more patience waiting for them to sprout.

How Do You Sprout Yours?

What do you prefer doing with your seeds? Chucking them straight in soil or using the paper towel method?

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