Watching seeds germinate is a great activity for kids, especially when the seeds sprout quickly. Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is an easy to grow seed that should sprout in around a week. Sprinkle a small quantity of alfalfa seeds on some wet paper towel to watch them germinate and grow.

You Will Need:

  • a packet of alfalfa seeds (about 1.5g)
  • a saucer or small plate
  • 3 pieces of paper towel
  • a spray mister or small water jug

 

A packet of alfalfa seeds, some pieces of paper towel and a saucer

How to Grow:

  1. Wet 3 pieces of paper towel and put them on top of each other flat on a plate.
  2. Drain the water from the plate. The paper towel should be wet but the seeds should not be floating in water.
  3. Sprinkle the seeds thickly onto the paper towel. 
  4. Place on a sunny windowsill and water to stop the paper towel from drying out. You can use a mister or spray bottle to wet the seeds, or gently add a small amount of water to the saucer using a small jug or cup.
  5. Check your seeds every day to see how they're growing.

Here's what your seeds might look like when you start to grow them:

Alfalfa seeds being grown on a paper towel and a spray mister

Alfalfa seeds sprouting on paper towel, day 4 and day 7

Ideas for Your Seeds:

You can sprinkle the seeds in your favourite shape or the first letter of your name.

Alfalfa sprouts grown in the shape of a letter T

You can also use a cookie cutter or stencil to make a shape.

Alfalfa sprouts grown in the shape of a heart using a cookie cutter as a template

Alfalfa seeds will also grow on cotton wool or in standard seed raising mix.

Troubleshooting

Alfalfa is an easy to grow seed that should germinate in 2 to 6 days. If seeds do not germinate in this time, here are a few things that might have gone wrong:

Too dry: Seeds need water to grow. Alfalfa seeds absorb about their own weight in water before germinating, making them look swollen. If your seeds are too dry they will not sprout. Add more water to the plate so the seeds are wet but not floating in water. You can also try soaking your seeds overnight; just be sure to drain and rinse them with fresh water before spreading them on the paper towel.

Too wet: If the seeds are too wet their new roots and shoots may rot before they get a chance to grow. It's also possible that mould will start to grow on the seeds. It's OK for the paper towel to be wet, but the seeds shouldn't be floating in water. Drain excess water from the plate each time you mist or water the seeds.

Too hot or cold: The best temperature for alfalfa to grow is 20-25°C. If you are growing your seeds in winter, put them in a warm spot indoors. If you are growing your seeds in very warm temperatures you may need to water the seeds more often as they will dry out faster.

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