Garden season (as well as farming season) is upon us and if you haven't already started planning you garden or farm... it is time to get planning! (And why not use the Fantastic Farm & Garden Calculator or the Grow Your Own CSA tool suite to help you get the most out of your farm or garden?) As part of your planning and getting ready to start growing, some of you may want to start your own seedlings.
One easy way to germinate seeds is in a paper towel. How long does it take to germinate seeds in a paper towel? For more visual folks like myself, the this video gives a good overview of starting seeds in paper towels. One thing I'd suggest is to not use a sealable ziplock bag as she does, but if you do, don't zip it shut.
To start, moisten a paper towel and wring it out so it is damp, not wet. Then spread the seeds out evenly, then sandwich with another moist towel. As the video mentions, a four inch square piece is a nice size and will easily slip into a plastic sandwich bag. Fold the towel and put it in a plastic bag.
Next you'll want to keep the seeds in a slightly warm (generally 65-75 degrees is good for most plants) area until they germinate. I've heard some who set them on top of their refrigerator, some even mention setting them on top of their hot water heater. if you're starting a lot of seeds, you could set them in a cooler (ice chest type) and rig a low wattage light bulb inside to give off the heat. With this method I'd usually partly cover the top of the cooler to keep some of the heat in, but not cover it all the way.
Depending on the variety of seed (check what is specified on the seed packet), germination should start within a week or even days. As soon as the seed breaks and new growth begins, place in moist soil. For very small seeds, you can just lay the sprouts on the surface (or refer to seed packet instructions), for larger seeds bury according to the packages instructions. If you've followed these guidelines and your seeds are not germinating in the paper towel after the specified number of days, they may be too old and you'll need to start again.