Germinating Seeds without Soil: update day 4

When  I last sowed cabbage and carrot seeds in soil they seemed to take forever to germinate.  In fact, carrot seeds are still germinating from when they were planted in April!

A few days ago I decided to try germinating these bothersome seeds without soil hoping they would be easier to transplant as well as being easier to pick up and thus have less loss of seeds and avoid thinning.

I set damp paper towels in two plastic containers and spread the seeds.  The tiny seeds are easy to see and to move apart evenly.   I misted the seeds then put the lids on.

The cabbage seeds have already germinated after 3 days.  When I last sowed cabbage seeds in potting mix it took 5 days before I saw sprouts emerge and only 4 seeds germinated out of 2 dozen.  Cabbage seeds normally take only 3-5 days to germinate, but for me they took twice as long in soil and a few germinated.

The seeds I put into the plastic container are from the same seed packet and as you can see the germination rate is much improved.

cabbage seeds after 3 days

The carrot seeds normally take 14-21 days to germinate, and the ones in the plastic container have not germinated, yet.  But I am hopeful.  It would be great to have a better way to start carrots and other tiny seeds.

Beet seeds take 5-15 days, but these are already germinating in only 3 days.  Since I didn’t have any additional plastic containers, I spread these beet seed atop very damp potting mix in a seed tray then covered them with a damp paper towel and kept all three containers beneath grow lights.

The beets have started germinating after only 3 days.

beet germination in 3 days

Just as with the carrots, the beets I sowed directly into the garden in April have only recently started germinating and only a portion of the seeds sprouted.

At this rate of development these tiny plants may be ready for the garden in a few more days.     I will be using this method with other seeds.

I will post updates as things develop.


cabbage seeds day 4 stems and tiny white roots are about an inch long each.
cabbage germination day 4
cabbage seedlings in egg carton greenhouse
carrot seed day 4 germination  tiny white roots appear
beet seeds day 4  tiny leaves appearing; seeds were set on top of soil mix and covered with damp paper towel.

Yesterday I found another plastic container and started broccoli seeds.

2 thoughts on “Germinating Seeds without Soil: update day 4”

  1. Thank you for this great tip Kath. I’ve also been frustrated with the germination time and the very few that seem to germinate at all when seeds are sowed directly into the garden. It seems such a waste. I’ll try this with my next lot of carrot seeds.


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