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Garden Hack: Germinate Seeds in Your Instant Pot!

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The germination of seeds requires a specific temperature range for the initial sprouting to happen. If your house is too cool, starting seeds inside can be difficult if not a complete bust. If you own an Instant Pot? Germinating seeds just got a LOT easier! 

Read about how and why to soak garden seeds here.

instant pot with seeds leaning on it

Seeds that require high temperatures for germination — that first burst of life — can be challenging to get started until temperatures rise. Starting seeds indoors allows gardeners to get a jump on the season, but some seeds require temperatures that are considerably higher than most people keep their homes. 

Even in my warm climate, I use heat mats to start some seeds. But not everyone wants to invest in heating pads that are only used for a few weeks each year. 

If you have an Instant Pot it could be the garden hack you need!

First, credit where it’s due. An Ottawa gardener by the name of Lyanne Betit shared her method in a private Facebook group. When asked more, she shared a video of her seed germination hack. Lyanne’s method helps Mother Nature along with an Instant Pot!

I took it upon myself to try this seed germination method and — surprise! — it works! 

I’m not suggesting that you head out to buy an Instant Pot for germinating seeds. But if you have one, it’s a good way to make use of it instead of forking out for heated seed mats. 


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Germinating Seeds in an Instant Pot

The first thing to know is that you’ll use the low yogurt setting for this project. This setting will vary between models, but the gentle heat — usually around 91ºF — used for making yogurt is a good replacement for traditional seed starting mats.  

Check your Instant Pot owner’s manual for more information. If you’re not sure what temperature your model reaches on the yogurt setting, it would be a good idea to place a small thermometer inside before adding seeds to the pot. 

With this method, you will NOT use the Instant Pot lid. Instead, set a regular pot lid in place to help retain heat. If you’re concerned about the temperature getting too high, you could also leave the lid off entirely. The seeds will still benefit from the heat emanating from below.

Because I like to avoid unnecessary waste, I opted to use squares of t-shirt fabric to wrap the seeds in. I also used small jars, rather than plastic baggies. 

Seeds that germinate better in higher temps

The Instant Pot creates a little greenhouse for the seeds to thrive in.

Unless it’s really cold at your place, cool temperature seeds like greens and peas and brassicas won’t necessarily need a boost.

Other seeds, though, will germinate more easily with a bit of extra warmth

jars with pink fabric inside, sitting on seed envelopes

Try using this method for crops like: 

long purple and white eggplant on a bush

jars in an instant pot

Garden Hack: Germinate Seeds in Your Instant Pot!

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 10 minutes
Waiting Time: 5 days
Total Time: 5 days 15 minutes

Some seeds just prefer a little more warmth than others to germinate well. Here's how to use an Instant Pot to achieve germination.

Materials

  • Seeds

Tools

  • Instant Pot
  • Jars

Instructions

  1. Cut an old t-shirt into squares roughly 6" across. Wet fabric then lightly squeeze out the excess.
  2. Sprinkle seeds onto the wet fabric. Roll up and place into jars. Screw on lid.
  3. Place a kitchen towel in the bottom of the Instant Pot reservoir. Pour enough water into the reservoir to saturate the towel. Set a pie plate or rack in the reservoir.
  4. Set jars of seeds on the pie plate or rack. This prevents the seeds from getting TOO hot. jars in an instant pot
  5. Choose the low yogurt setting for an extended length of time. (Eight to 99 hours, depending on the model.) It can take 2-5 days for most seeds to sprout. Restart the timing as necessary to keep the Instant Pot warm.
  6. Cover the Instant Pot reservoir with a lid -- not the sealing Instant Pot lid -- to help hold in the heat. If you don't have a lid that works, drape a kitchen towel over the top.
  7. Check the jars by unrolling the fabric daily.
  8. When you see the seeds beginning to send out rootlets, carefully transfer them to seedling pots and water. You should see a seedling emerge from the soil in a few days.

Notes

Check your Instant Pot owner's manual for more information. If you're not sure what temperature your model reaches on the yogurt setting, it would be a good idea to place a small thermometer inside before adding seeds to the pot. 

With this method, you will NOT use the Instant Pot lid. Instead, set a regular pot lid in place to help retain heat. If you're concerned about the temperature getting too high, you could also leave the lid off entirely. The seeds will still benefit from the heat emanating from below.

Read more about starting seeds here.

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle. She's a certified Master Food Preserver and longtime gardener who loves to turn the harvest into pantry staples.

2 comments… add one
  • Lynda Boonstra Apr 15, 2021, 4:34 pm

    The directions forgot to include that the yogurt setting nerds to be the LOW yogurt setting. That one runs at 86°F. Regular yogurt runs at 115°F which will cook your seeds. You can also skip the towel and our pan on the bottom if you have a trivet or rack to keep your seeds out of the inch of water in the bottom. Using the trivet you can put your seeds in wet paper towel inside sandwich bags. This method is only for heat loving seeds like peppers and okra. Do not use it for your cold lovers like brassicas.

    • Kris Bordessa Apr 16, 2021, 9:18 am

      Thanks for this. I edited to make it more clear.

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