Arthur Scott invented paper towel in 1907; Julius Petri invented the petri dish in 1887. Long before that, cannabis evolved to germinate on the ground. Like Confucius says, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
Germinating seeds in paper towel or a petri dish is a lot of work. It feels really important, like major surgery. But like a heart transplant, there a lot of complications that can arise in the process. Timing and transplant must be precise. Minor mistakes or delay cause the tender first shoot to die from breakage, damping off (mold) or drying out.
In skilled hands, the paper towel method might be more effective than nature. Check paper towel and petri dishes frequently; adjust moisture levels as needed. Transplant germinated seeds to the grow medium carefully, with tweezers. A long, overdeveloped radicle is more likely to break during the procedure, so don’t delay.
Seeds are protected when they are planted into their “forever home” on day 1. This hands-off approach eliminates breakage and damping off. Mold is unlikely to kill direct-sown seedlings. A well-aerated grow medium resists both over and under watering.
Paper towel and petri dish germination does make for great pictures! Everyone should do it at least once to observe what would otherwise be obscured from view. Otherwise we recommend Root Riot starter cubes or a fluffy, well-drained soil. Check out our blog on germinating seeds the way nature intended.