12) Sowing beans on absorbing paper


In this tip:

  • Introduction
  • A)# Folding paper
  • B)# Sowing beans in an ice cream box on kitchen paper
  • C)# Small bean plants
  • D)# Remarks
  • E)# How fast germinating and growing
  • F)# Putting in a big tray or in flower pots
  • G)# Extra info
  • H)# Safety
  • I)# Soaking prior to germinating?
  • J)# Curling
  • K)# Wikihow
  • L)# Seeds of other legumes
  • M)# Warm Germination
  • N)# Youtube video:    this Dutch video (about germination of beans) and     this one    (about germinating all kind of seeds).


This tip concerns sowing and germinating bean seeds on moist (absorbing) kitchen paper.

Extra tests about germinating bean seeds have been executed. Info about these tests in    tip 35    .

Below a description of the best and most useful method for germinating beans.



When sowing beans directly into the garden soil, sometimes not all seeds turn into plants. See photos below of my neighbours garden in our allotment garden.


The first row: Near the string, bean seeds have been sown; each 10 centimeters (4 inch) one bean seed. Not all bean seeds (or only a few seeds) germinated.

Later on, bean seeds have been sown at the empty positions between the plants.


The second row: A few weeks later, bean seeds have been sown in the garden soil under this string. Again, not all seeds germinated.

Later on, bean seeds have been sown between the plants.

(Behind this second row there is the first row with big bean plants).


Cause: Some bean seeds have rot due to rain or moist weather. Or some seeds did not germinate due to too dry soil or too low temperature.  Result: one row of bean plants with “open areas” between the plants. Extra sowing is needed.


This can also happen at stake beans. When you sow many bean seeds around a stake, it can happen that not all seeds germinate. See the photo below at another garden of our allotment.


In this garden you see 12 stakes. Bean seeds have been sown (two times after another) around the stakes. Few (or no) bean plants visible. Much weed plants growing around the stakes.



You better sow bean seeds on moist (absorbing) kitchen paper. Let the seeds germinate. Put the small bean plants of about 5 centimeter (2 inch) high in the garden soil. Put the plants in a row or near stakes. The small plants grow into big bean plants.



With this moist paper method there is less risk of attack by the bean seed fly. After sowing in the soil, the maggots of the bean seed fly can make holes in the germinating bean seeds. This results in bean plants wit no leaves. The plants have only two seedlobes (two cotyledons). Bean plants will die.

You can find info on the internet about the bean seed fly   on this site   .


Below is described how to germinate bean seeds in a tray (or in a box) on moist kitchen paper.


A)# Folding paper

Depending of the size of the box (tray) and the size of absorbing paper you can perhaps fold as shown in the photo above.  This results in 6 layers of paper.


You can fold the paper in a way that there is a narrow “flap” at one long side. You can write info (date, species) on the flap.


B)# Sowing beans in an (ice cream) box on kitchen paper


  • Use a plastic tray, for example an ice cream box. This rectangular box has a flat bottom. Sides are about 6 centimeters (2.4 inch) high.
  • Lay folded kitchenpaper (6 layers) on the bottom.
  • Moisten the paper with cold tap water;
    • Pour “much” water in the box on the paper.
    • Let the paper get moist completely.
    • Keep the box slanting.
    • Let water flow out of the box until dripping starts.
    • Put the box straight again.
  • Lay 30 to 50 bean seeds on moist kitchen paper as shown on the photo above.
  • Lay a lid on the box. Info about this lid a few lines further (chapter B1)
  • Place the boxes in a warm room, 18 to 25 C (65 to 77 F).
  • Check for big bean plants. Take big plants (2 inch high) from the paper and put them in the soil.
  • Add water on the paper when needed.


B1) A lid on the box

Lay a “lid” on the box with bean seeds. This lid keeps the paper moist for several days. So the paper does not dry out so fast. When the paper is dry, germination stops.

The lid is on the box until the first bean plants are about 5 centimeters (2 inch) high. Take these bean plants from the paper and put the lid on the box again. Check dayly if there are new “big” bean plants on the moist paper. And check if the paper is moist. When needed add some tap water to the paper.

You can use the original “ice cream box lid” or a lid made of cardboard in a plastic bag. Below a description.


B1a) Original lid


Put the original lid “loose” on the box. The paper in the box does not dry out so fast. There are many air openings (splits) between box and lid.


  • Do not push on the original lid while putting it on the box; pushing causes the lid to stuck to the box. When opening the box, you have to pull hard at the lid. Bean seeds can roll or shift during opening. That is not good. So put the lid loose on the box.
  • When using this original lid, you can stack only a few systems (box with lid) on top of each other. The lower lid can be pushed on the box due to the weight of the upper systems.


B1b) “Cardboard lid


Or you can make a simple lid by putting a piece of cardboard in a plastic bag. The rubber bands hold the cardboard in the bag. The rubber bands also make small air holes between the lid and the box. Using this lid you can stack “many” systems (box with lid) on top of each other.  In    tip 35    you can read how to make this lid. And what are the advantages of this lid.


C)# Small bean plants





After about 10 days there will be some bean plants of 2 inch high. They have roots and leafs are visible. Watering the paper makes it easier to remove the plants. Take big bean plants from the paper and plant them in the soil.  Water the soil after planting. Rake the soil around the plants when the soil has dried up a little. Use a small hand cultivator to do this.


D)# Remarks

  1. The lid is on the box during all germination time. The lid is only removed for a short time when taking bean plants out or when adding water.
  2. The cardboard lid is the best lid and works very well. The original lid works well too with less than 4 boxes on top of each other.
  3. Clean boxes before use (wash up, rinse and dry).
  4. Always use tap water.
  5. Germinating seeds stink.
  6. Not all seeds germinate at the same time.
  7. Paper is well wetted when you see water appearing some seconds after slanting the box. Or press with one finger on the moist paper and check if there is a small puddle of water visible around the finger.
  8. Long (high) bean plants? Plant them deeper in the soil.
  9. On some bean seeds, green/blue fungus spots can appear.
  10. Some beans can rot, remove them.
  11. Some varieties or species give more rotting seeds.
  12. Old bean seed gives more rotting and/or fungus spots.
  13. In the box, seeds germinate under ideal circumstances (humidity, air, light).
  14. More beans needed, place more systems on top of each other.
  15. You can plant the bean plants at all summer weather conditions (sunshine, rain).
  16. Is there too much water in the box, do not water for some days. Seeds will not rot thanks to 6 layers of absorbing paper.
  17. Is there way too much water, use new kitchen paper or tissues to absorb the exces of water.
  18. You can harvest early beans when you put the first bush bean seeds on moist kitchen paper at early spring.
  19. Write info (variety, date) on absorbing paper before wetting. See photo below.



E)# How fast germinating and growing

On the photos above you see 20 germinating bean seeds, 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10 or 11 days after laying on the moist paper. Temperature was about 2o C (68 F).

From 8 days on, some bean plants are big enough to plant in the garden.


F)#  Putting in a big tray or in flower pots

When you have big bean plants it can be too cold or too rainy to replant.


Put the plants in a (plastic) tray in a layer of compost. Put the tray at a cold, light place (outside under a roof or indoors before a window). Replant the bean plants in the garden soil when weather is good.


You can put the plants in flower pots with compost. Or in flower pots with inserts.


  • Use 2 equal size flower pots, upper diameter is about 12 centimeters (5 inch).
  • At one pot cut away more than half of the side wall. Keep the bottom intact. This is the insert.
  • Put the insert in the flower pot.
  • Fill with compost (or a mixture of compost and garden soil).
  • Put 4 bean plants in the flower pot.
  • You can easily remove the root ball with plants when planting out in the garden soil.

You can use “normal” flower pots too. It is a little harder then to get the root ball with plants out of the pots.



You can put many flower pots with small bean plants in a laundry basket. Lay a piece of wire netting on top against (Black)birds that search for earth worms in the compost.

Put the basket to your garden at good planting weather and put the plants in the garden soil.


G)# Extra info

At warm sunny weather you can place the germinating beans in a mini greenhouse.  Some bean plants fall over and grow with curved stems. Plant them in the soil with the stem upright.


H)# Safety

During germimation, bacteria and funguses are active. In the soil but also in the box with absorbing paper. You smell it and you see some spots on the seeds. These organisms are not extreme dangerous. But you must always wash hands after gardening and before eating or drinking.  Growing beans on absorbing paper is gardening too.


I)# Soaking prior to germinating?

Is germinating faster when seeds have been soaked in water before laying on paper?

Here a test to find out. Bean seeds have been soaked in water for 1,2,4,8,12 (not 16) or 24 hours. Some seeds have not been soaked. Then the seeds were put on moist kitchen paper. Test was done twice. Below the results.

After soaking, these bean seeds have been germinated for 5 days at 20 C (68 F).

After soaking, these bean seeds have been germinated for 10 days at 20 C (68 F).

On both photos; the seeds at the left side of the red line have been soaked prior to germinating, the seeds at the right side haven’t.

  • Soaked seeds do not germinate faster than non-soaked.
  • Soaked seeds give more rotting or brown coloured seeds than non-soaked.

So you better not soak the bean seeds before laying on absorbing paper. Best way is putting dry seeds on moist paper.


J)# Curling

There was a reaction from Koen (Dutch visitor) who mentioned that most of his bean plants formed a curl during growing. To investigate this, beans were sown on moist paper. The boxes with germinating bean seeds were in a warm or a cold room, in dark or in light.

The top photo shows many “curled” bean plants and a few “not curled” plants.  The curled bean plants get “straight” within 24 to 36 hours.

Beans that germinate in the dark give plants with a long stem, so best to plant out.  The leaves are light yellow and turn to green within 24 hours.


K)# Wikihow

I wrote an article about this topic on Wikihow.  Click on:   wikihow beans   .


L)# Seeds of other legumes

Germinating beans on moist paper goes well. Other legumes can also germinate in this way.

L1) Horse beans



Nine seeds of horse beans (broad beans) germinate on moist paper. One seed is rotting (the dark brown seed, top left).



Eight seeds grew into good plants.



You can put each plant in a flower pot (with insert) filled with compost. Put the plants in your garden in March (late winter).


L2) Peas and Snow peas


From left to right on 6 layers of moist kitchen paper: seeds of peas, horse beans and snow peas. All seeds germinate well.


M)# Warm germination


When bean seed is old, there can be mould (fungus) on the seeds during germination  at room temperature, 20 C (68 F). Most seeds grow into bean plants. But some seeds are not okay; the fungus makes these seeds rot.


You better germinate old bean seed on a warm apparatus, for example on a central heating unit. At higher temperature, germinating is much faster than moulding.

See photo above:

  • Left box: old bean seed, germinated for 5 days at a temperature between 25 and 30 C (77 to 86 F).
  • Right box: old bean seed, germinated for 5 days at 20 C (68 F).


N)# Youtube video:

On the internet I found these interesting videos about seeds and germination;

This video       (about germinating all kind of seeds).

and   this Dutch video     (about germination of bean seeds)

This entry was posted in Beans. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 12) Sowing beans on absorbing paper

  1. Pingback: 35) More tips about germinating beans | sjefgardentips

  2. Pingback: 10) Beans in Sjef’s garden | sjefgardentips

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