Soaking Bean Seeds

Written by peg robinson
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Soaking Bean Seeds
Beans are a popular choice for home gardeners. (Runner Bean Plants image by chrisharvey from

While there is disagreement as to the wisdom of pre-germinating beans by soaking them, using these methods (called "chitting") will begin the germination process quickly. When beans are going into cool soil the technique may provide a useful early start. There are two methods, both simple, that will allow gardeners to chit the beans prior to planting in pots or planting outdoors in a prepared garden bed.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Bowl or saucer
  • Water
  • Colander (optional)
  • Small plastic bag
  • Peat moss
  • Or
  • Bean seed
  • Waterproof tray
  • Damp newspaper or paper towels
  • Plant cells/planting pots (optional)
  • Potting soil

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    Method One

  1. 1

    Fill saucer or bowl with lukewarm tap water.

  2. 2

    Place beans in bowl or saucer, adjust water level so beans are covered. Leave to soak overnight.

  3. 3

    Drain beans gently, by hand or with a colander.

  4. 4

    Place peat moss in the plastic bag. Add the bean seed and shake gentle to coat damp seed with peat.

  5. 5

    Sow peat and peat-covered seed in the garden in accordance with planting instructions.

    Method Two

  1. 1

    Line a waterproof tray with a layer of well dampened newspaper or paper towels. The paper should be fully damp but not sopping, approximately as wet as a wrung-out wash cloth.

  2. 2

    Place beans evenly on the surface of the paper.

  3. 3

    Cover with a second layer of paper. Keep paper damp for approximately a week, checking occasionally to see if beans are sprouting.

  4. 4

    When beans have sprouted then can be transplanted gently into warm, pre-tilled soil, or planted in a small plant pot or cell and allowed to grow further before being transplanted to the garden.

Tips and warnings

  • Do not allow seeds to soak more than 12 hours: waterlogged seeds are likelier to split or suffer from moulds and rot that will reduce germination rather than encourage it.
  • Many authorities recommend that bean seeds not be chitted, but planted directly, because of potential damage caused by soaking. Others consider chitting a sensible precaution when planting into a cool garden. To some extent experimentation and personal experience will establish which technique works best for you in your garden.

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