The conventional method of gardening and crop cultivation involve tilling of land, sowing seeds, weeding, and fertilizing. However, the advent of newer technology revolutionized the traditional methods of gardening and plant propagation. Earlier it was thought that soil is necessary for germination of seeds and growth of plants. With researches proving the fact that it was not the soil, but the nutrients and minerals in it which are responsible for the healthy growth of plants, a wide range of media and equipment were invented for growing seeds and plants without soil. One such example is hydroponic gardening, which uses water as a growing medium for plants. You may also buy soilless plant growing kits with gel-like substances that are specially developed for growing seeds and plants. However, growing seeds can be done at a very low cost, with some easily available materials. The following are some easy methods to grow seeds without using soil.
Materials Required: Seeds, paper towels, plastic trays, plastic film roll, and water.
Step I: Take two to three paper towels and spray some water till they get damp (not soggy). Place them on a shallow dish or tray. Spread some seeds on the paper towel. Small-sized seeds are preferred for this method. You may use seeds of chili, aubergine, tomato, etc.
Step II: Now cover the seeds with another set of two to three damp paper towels. Press them gently.
Step III: Cover the tray with a thin, transparent plastic film and place it on a windowsill (with access to sunlight) for two to three days. Make sure that the paper towels remain moist throughout this period. So spray small amounts of water, if the paper towels dry out completely.
Step IV: Avoid touching the seeds or opening the paper towels, till the sprouts appear. Once the sprouts grow, you can transplant them to pots. Make sure that you open the paper towels in a gentle manner, so that the sprouts can be removed intact. This is very important, if you intend to transplant them.
Treating the seeds with a diluted bleach solution may prove useful in preventing mold formation in the germination bags. In that case, dip the seeds in the solution for 10 to 15 seconds, before use. The time required for sprouting may not be uniform in all cases. This method is ideal for small seeds. However, bigger seeds can also be grown with this method. In case of a mango seed, remove the tough outer covering, before wrapping it in damp paper towels. It may take around three weeks for the seed to germinate.
Materials Required: Bean seeds, a wide-mouthed glass jar, cheesecloth and rubber bands/mesh lid or sprouting lid, and water.
Step I: Put the seeds in the jar and add water. The level of water must be around an inch above the level of the seeds. Place the jar in a warm, dark place and let the seeds soak overnight. You may either use a mesh lid or cover the jar with a cheesecloth and secure it with rubber bands.
Step II: The next morning, drain the water in the jar and rinse the seeds. Once done, drain again and keep the jar upside down for some time, so that the water is removed completely. You have to repeat the process every twelve hours, to prevent the seeds getting slimy. Once the water is drained, keep the jar back in a dark, warm place.
Step III: Sprouts will develop within two to three days, if you are using bean seeds. The time taken for sprouting may vary with factors like, temperature, type of seeds, etc. Once the sprouts appear, you can shift the jar to the windowsill with indirect sunlight. This will help faster growth of leaves. As the sprouts grow, you can remove them from the jar and plant in soil.
In short, soil is not necessary for growing seeds at home. However, these methods are not viable, if you opt for large-scale seed germination. You may also go for other media like, sponge, rock wool, and specialized gels (as used in tissue culture), for growing seeds without soil. The methods mentioned above are very easy and less messy. Even kids will enjoy such fun experiments.