35) More tips about germinating beans

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A)# Introduction

At    tip 12) “Sowing beans on absorbing paper”     you can read how to grow bean plants indoors. You lay bean seeds in a tray on moist kitchen paper. On the tray there is a “lid” to prevent the paper and the seeds from drying out. When bean plants are 2 inch high you take them from the paper and plant them in the garden soil.

This method works well most of the time. But now and then something goes wrong. Germinating takes much longer than normal. Or on some seeds there are fungus spots. Or seeds turn to light brown, stink and do not germinate.

When it goes wrong, are bean seeds not good or is kitchen paper method not good?

To find out, I did some extra tests with germinating bean seeds. In this post you can read the tests and the results.


B)# Lid on the tray with germinating beans

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When you use a tray with 2 sticks or pens and another tray on it as a lid, there is a rather broad air opening between the trays. At 68 F (20 C) the kitchen paper will not dry out so fast and the bean seeds germinate well.

But at a higher temperature, for instance 90 F (32 C), paper can dry out within some hours and then germinating stops.

Better use a tray with a more narrow air opening. Paper does not dry so fast then and bean seeds remain moist. In a tray with narrow air openings, bean seeds germinate faster than in a box with broad air openings.  This counts for higher  temperatures and for room temperature.

You can use the original lid of the tray (e.g. ice cream box). Do not press the original lid on the tray when it can fit tight on the box. During opening or closing, the box can be moved and bean seeds can roll or turn.

Next proposal is better:

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Lay the original lid “loose” on the tray (so no pressing on it). There is a narrow air opening between lid and tray. The kitchen paper will not dry out so fast. Bean seeds get enough fresh air. When using this “loose lid” on the tray, germinating works well.

In  tip 12) “Sowing beans on absorbing paper”   this lid is described as the best one when using one tray. So use the original tray and lid, put in moist kitchen paper, lay bean seeds on and put on the lid without pressing.

When germinating many beans, use 2 or more trays. Do not stack the trays with “loose” lids. Due to the weight of the top trays, the lid of the lower tray can “snap shut”, resulting in too narrow air holes. During opening, the lower tray can be moved and bean seeds can roll or turn.


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When the original lid is missing or when that lid closes hermetically, you can use a lid that is made of “a piece of cardboard in a plastic bag with rubber bands  around it”.

This lid is made as follows;

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Needed: a piece of cardboard, 2 rubber bands, a plastic bag with “square corners”.

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Cut the cardboard to the right size. The cardboard is some bigger than the tray. Slide the cardboard into the plastic bag. The slanting corners of the cardboard make sliding in easier.

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Fold over the plastic bag. Put 2 rubber bands around the whole. These bands keep the lid in shape. And the bands form a narrow air opening between lid and tray.

When the folded bag is too broad, fold open, cut away a piece from the bag (near the opening) and fold over again.


B1) Remarks:

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  • In stead of a freezing bag with close strips you can use a “normal” plastic bag. As long as the bag has square corners so it fits well over the cardboard.
  • Further in this post I call a lid made of “a piece of cardboard in a plastic bag with rubber bands  around it” a “cardboard lid”.
  • Such a cardboard lid is easy to make. No holes to be drilled in the trays and no sticks or pens needed.
  • In a tray with a cardboard lid, beans germinate a little faster than in a tray with another tray on sticks as a lid. At a narrow air opening, humidity in the tray is somewhat higher. Bean seeds absorb water for a longer time and germinate somewhat faster.

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  • You can stack more trays with cardboard lid. Useful when germinating many bean seeds.


C)# Germinating on a “warm apparatus”

At a higher temperature, bean seeds germinate faster than at room temperature. Germinating goes well when you put the tray with seeds on a “warm apparatus”. Heat “flows” through the bottom of the tray towards the bean seeds.

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On this photo you see boxes with germinating beans. The tray at the left side of the photo was at room temperature. The tray at the right side stood on a warm apparatus.

During germination there was a lid on the tray with bean seeds. At room temperature there was another tray on sticks on the tray. On the warm apparatus there was a cardboard lid om the tray.

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The same trays with lids removed.  All bean seeds have germinated on moist paper for 5 days. The left tray was at 66 F (19 C). The right tray was on a hood of the central heating unit that supplies hot tap water too, at a temp between 71 and 91 F (22 and 33 C).

As you can see, germinating on a central heating unit is much faster than in a room at 66 F (19 C).


Remark (germinating old bean seed on a warm apparatus)

schimmel 1 Bean seeds can be 1 or 2 years old when used. When germinating “old” bean seeds on moist kitchen paper at 20 C (68 F) seeds can show blue fungus spots. See photo above. Most bean seeds will grow into normal big bean plants. But some seeds will mould and rot so they will not turn into good bean plants.

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You better germinate “old” bean seed on a warm apparatus, for example a central heating unit. Bean plants “grow faster than the fungus” so fungus will not or hardly attack the seeds and plants. On the photo above you see “warm germinated” bean seeds in the left side tray. In the right side tray there are bean seeds that germinated just as many days as the seeds in the left tray. And all seeds come from the same package. In the left tray there are many healty and big plants. In the right tray some seeds have blue fungus spots already.


D)# Germinating in garden soil, potting soil, masonry sand or on kitchen paper

A colleague gardner uses  moist masonry sand to germinate bean seeds in. The method works well, he said.

This way of germinating has been described in a gardner book published in 1970.

To test this method, I germinated bean seeds “Miracle” in moist masonry sand, in moist garden soil, in moist potting soil or on moist kitchen paper. I did these test during warm summer weather. Germinating temperature was between 68 and 88 F (20 and 31 C) in the day time. During night, temp was about 72 F (22 C).

During germinating there was a cardboard lid on each tray.

On most photos in this chapter, there are 4 trays with;

  • garden soil (photo top left)
  • potting soil (photo top right)
  • masonry sand (photo bottom right)
  • moist kitchen paper (photo bottom left)

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  • Fill 3 trays with loose “moist soil” (garden soil, potting soil or masonry sand). Shake or move the tray to distribute the soil uniformly over the bottom. Or use a small board or lath to distribute the soil. Do not press on the soil.
  • Lay 6 layers of absorbing paper in one tray. Spray cold tap water on the paper.
  • Lay bean seeds on moist paper.
  • Lay bean seeds on “moist soil”. Lay the seeds on the soil or push them a few millimeters (1/10 inch) into the soil. Both methods work well.


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  • Spread a layer of “loose moist soil” on and between the seeds that lay on moist soil. Layer thickness 0.5 to 1 centimeter (1/5 to 2/5 inch).
  • Lay a cardboard lid on each tray.
  • Let the seeds germinate while lids are on the trays.


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Germinating results after 2 days at 68 to 88 F (22 to 31 C). Lids have been removed to make the photo.


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Germinating results after 4 days at 68 to 88 F (22 to 31 C). Lids have been removed to make the photo.


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Germinating results after 5 days at 68 to 88 F (22 to 31 C). Lids have been removed to make the photo.


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Bean plants germinated for 5 days in masonry sand (left) and on moist kitchen paper (right).


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Germinating results after 7 days at 68 to 88 F (22 to 31 C). Lids have been removed to make the photo.

All bean plants from masonry sand  +  the largest bean plants from the other trays have been put in the garden soil.


The photos show that germinating is fastest in moist masonry sand. Masonry sand is “clean” and it does not contain fungus or bacteria that can attack bean seeds or delay germination. Bean seeds are surrounded by moist grains of sand . During germination, bean seeds can absorb water slowly and uniformly.

Germinating on moist kitchen paper is about just as fast as in moist garden soil. This germination is somewhat slower than in moist masonry sand.

In moist potting soil, germinating is slowest. Potting soil is (a little) acidic. That can be the reason for slower germination.


E)# Bean seeds germinating in a layer of water

Another colleague gardner sowed dry bean seeds around stakes in moist garden soil. After sowing he watered the soil (with the beans sown in it). After 2 days he repeated watering and 2 days later he watered the soil again.

These bean seeds in his garden did not rot, as might be expected. All seeds germinated well. From each bean seed a bean plant was growing along the stakes.

Do bean seeds germinate well in extreme humid conditions?

The next test show the results.

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Three trays. In each tray there are 10 bean seeds “Miracle”.

  • In the left tray, bean seeds on 6 layers of moist kitchen paper.
  • In the central tray, bean seeds on 1 layer of kitchen paper. Seeds half immersed in water.
  • In the right tray, bean seeds on 1 layer of kitchen paper. Seeds completely immersed in water.

On each tray a carboard lid is laid. Bean seeds germinate at temperatures between 68 and 77 F (20 and 25 C).


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The same trays after 5 days of germinating at temperatures between 68 and 77 F. Lids have been removed.


  • On moist kitchen paper, all 10 beans have germinated.
  • Only 6 out of 10 bean seeds that are half immersed in water have germinated. The other 4 bean seeds did not germinate due to to absorption of too much water. These 4 seeds have been “drowned”.
  • All bean seeds that are completely immersed in water did not germinate. All “drowned”.

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On this photo you see the same 10 and 4 drowned seeds, a few days later. Seeds rot, stink, became soft, have fungus and will not germinate anymore.

Good bean seeds germinate well at moist conditions in the garden soil, when water can sink into the underlaying soil. As my colleague gardner demonstrated.


F)# Bean seeds in a freezer

Do bean seeds germinate after some days in a freezer at 0 (zero) degrees F (- 18 C)?  Here are the results.

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Bean seeds “Miracle” have been put in freezing bags with zip lock. Bags with beans have been in a freezer at 0 F (-18 C) for 1,2,3,4 or 5 days. Three seeds per group. Three seeds ( column “0”) have not been in a freezer.

After that, seeds have germinated on moist kitchenpaper at 68 to 77 F (20 to 25 C), see photo above. Numbers on the paper (0,1,2,3,4,5) indicate freezer times in days. On the tray there was a cardboard lid.

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On this photo the same bean seeds after 3 days of germination at 68 to 77 F (20 to 25 C). All seeds but 2 have germinated. On these 2 seeds (one in group 3, one in group 5) are dark (fungus) spots.

All well germinated seeds growed to normal bean plants. Two seeds with fungus spots turned to light brown and did not germinate.

Bean seeds that were in a freezer at 0 F (- 18 C) for 1 to 5 days germinate approximately as fast as bean seeds that were not in a freezer.


G)# Bean seed with bad germination capacity

Bean seeds are sold in bags or boxes. On the packaging there is (always) a “best before” date. Mostly this date is a few years later than the purchasing date.

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These 2 boxes with “Miracle” bean seeds have been bought in a garden shop in January 2013. The two boxes have different “best before” dates (as intended).

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On the boxes there are 2 different numbers (246886, 305116) and 2 different “best before” dates (in Dutch “BRUIKB. TOT”) (1.1.2016,  1.1.2017). According to the packagings information, bean seeds can be used for almost 3 to 4 years.

Further in this post, the bean seed in the box with “…1.1.2016” is called “old”. With ….1.1.2017 is called “new”.


G1) Germinating in a tray with moist masonry sand

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On a mixture of moist garden soil and moist compost (1 to 1), 2 rows of 10 bean seeds “Miracle” have been laid. This mixture is similar to the garden soil where is sowed in.

The top row on the photo contains “old” seeds. The bottom row “new” seeds. This is also on the notice (O or N).

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On this photo the tray has turned a quarter. On the notice there is O (old) and N (new). On the bean seeds a thin layer of moist “garden soil/compost mixture” has been put.

Then a cardboard lid has been put on and beans have germinated at a temperature between 68 and 77 F (20 and 25 C).

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On this photo you see bean seeds after 2 days of germination.

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And after 4 days of germination.

At the “new” bean seeds, 10 small bean plants have grown. At the “old” bean seeds there are no plants visible.

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The 10 “old” bean seeds have taken out of the garden soil/compost mixture. These seeds have been rinsed in water and laid on a piece of paper. Seeds are brown and on some seeds blue fungus is visible. A few seeds are soft. No germination occured.

“Old” bean seeds germinate very poor (or do not germinate) in a moist mixture of garden soil and compost.


G2) Germinating in moist masonry sand or on moist kitchen paper

From the test described at D)# Germinating in garden soil, potting soil, masonry sand or on kitchen paper you see that bean seeds germinate fastest in moist masonry sand.

That’s why a test with “old” Miracle bean seed in moist masonry sand has been executed. And also a test on moist kitchenpaper.


G3) Masonry sand test

In 2 trays, 30 seeds of “old” Miracle have been laid on moist masonry sand and covered with a thin layer of moist masonry sand. On each tray there was a carboard lid. One tray was kept at a temperature between  68 and 77 F (20 and 25 C). The other tray stood on the hood of the central heating unit that supplies hot tap water too.

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On this photo “old” bean seeds after 6 days of germination.  Left tray (“20”) was at a temperature between  68 and 77 F (20 and 25 C). Right tray (C) was on a central heater hood.

In the tray that was on the heater hood, 2 bean seeds out of 30 germinated. In the other tray no seeds have germinated. So “old” bean seeds germinate poorly in moist masonry sand.

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From the left tray (“20”) 30 bean seeds have been taken out, rinsed with water and dried on paper. From the right tray (“C”) 28 bean seeds. All 58 bean seeds have not germinated.

On the photo above you see some of these not germinated bean seeds (left photo “20” group, right photo “C” group). All seeds look more or less like each other. Some seeds have blue fungus spots.


G4) Test with moist kitchen paper

In 2 trays 30 seeds of “old” Miracle have been laid on moist kitchen paper. On each tray there was a cardboard lid. One tray was at 68 and 77 F (20 and 25 C).  The other tray was on the hood of a heater unit.

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On this photo you see “old” bean seeds after 6 days of germination. The left tray (’20”) was at a temperature between 68 and 77 F (20 and 25 C). The right tray (C) on a heater unit.

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The beans on the left photo have germinated between 68 and 77 F (20 and 25 C). The beans on the central and the right photo on a central heating unit.

When you click on the photo it will appear screen wide.

In each tray some seeds have germinated. On many seeds there are blue, black or green fungus spots. Some seeds are brown and did not germinate. These brown seeds absorbed too much water and have “drowned”.


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The 20 seeds that do germinate are put in a tray with moist garden soil. The photo above shows the bean seeds (bean plants) right after putting in garden earth. On the tray a transparent hood has been put.

Within 3 to 6 days, 10 bean seeds grow into small bean plants. Some bean plants look a little “odd”. These odd plants will grow normally into big ones.

Ten (10) bean seeds in the tray did not survive. These seeds have rot.


G5) What to do?

When you buy bean seed in a shop, look at the “best before” dates on several packages and on several (bean) species. In this way you can find out what is old and new bean seed.

Are 2 “best before” dates present at the desired bean species, buy seed with the last “best before” time. So seed that will last longest.

Are there any doubts about the germination capacity, you can do a “germination test” with about 5 to 10 seeds.

Easiest test is in a tray with 6 layers of moist kitchen paper, as described above in this post. Put on a cardboard lid and put the tray on a “warm apparatus”. When roots are visible at some bean seeds after 2 to 3 days, seed is okay. Good bean seeds have no (big) fungus spots, do not turn to brown (or maybe 1 or 2 seeds) and grow into good bean plants.

Another test is in moist masonry sand, see description above. Within 1 day there are “swellings” on the sand from the thicking bean seeds. This is due to water absorption of the seeds. When (at some seeds) roots or seed parts are visible above the sand within 2 to 3 days, seeds are okay.

For some species germination capacity decreases faster, for example at the “Miracle” beans as described above.

At some other bean species, germination capacity can be good for a long time. One never knows. A germination test can give you more information.

Complaining at a shop or a supplier about “bad seed” is very difficult, I think. Supplier will alert to the “best before” date. Or will tell you that the weather or your garden soil is not good.


H)# Bean seed absorbs water too fast

For germination, bean seed has to absorb water.

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Each bean seed has a tiny opening to let water in. On the photo above, black arrows point to this opening.


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When a bean seed absorbs water too fast, seed turns to light brown. Seed does not germinate anymore. Very often (blue/green) fungus spots appear on the seed. Like the 4 seeds, left above on the photo.

Too fast (or too much) water absorption can happen when seeds are immersed in a layer of water. This is described at E)# Bean seeds germinating in a layer of water.


boonkiem 2Too fast absorption of water can happen when there is a layer of moist kitchen paper on the bean seeds.

boonkiem 10Or when you spray much water on bean seeds laying on moist paper.


H2) Recommendation

  • Lay bean seeds on moist kitchen paper.
  • Do not spray water on the seeds. Do not lay moist paper on the seeds.
  • Lay a cardboard lid on the tray so the air in the tray will get moist.
  • The bean seeds germinate well in moist air. Seeds absorb water gradually and continuously.
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2 Responses to 35) More tips about germinating beans

  1. Pingback: Welcome | sjefgardentips

  2. Pingback: 12) Sowing beans on absorbing paper | sjefgardentips

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