Bean seeds are large and easy-to-plant, but getting them to sprout in the soil can sometimes be a challenge. If seeds are soaked prior to planting, or if the soil is too wet, the seeds may crack and not germinate well. If the soil is too dry, the seeds may also have trouble germinating. Starting, or germinating, bean seeds before planting is one way to be sure your beans get off to a good start.
Calculate approximately how many bean seeds you will need to start, based on the size of the area you intend to plant. Bush beans require 2- to 4-inch spacing, with 18 to 24 inches between rows. Pole beans need 4 to 6 inches, and 30 to 36 inches between rows.
Set out only the bean seeds you will need. Fold a paper towel in half, then in half again, and place it on a waterproof plate. Pour water onto the paper towel, just enough to soak it but not leave a puddle. Pour any extra water off the plate.
Open the wet paper towel back to its half size. Place bean seeds about an inch apart over half the paper towel. This room will be needed by the roots, which can become tangled as they grow. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for any remaining seeds that need to be started.
Fold the other half of the paper towel over the seeds. Press down gently to have the top paper towel make contact with each seed.
If using zipper storage bags, carefully slide each paper towel into a bag. Press to remove most of the air, and seal the zipper completely to prevent the paper towel from drying out. If using plastic wrap, fold under the corners of the paper towel, so they do not extend beyond the edge of the plate, before wrapping tightly with one or two layers of plastic wrap.
Bean seeds will germinate well at room temperature, so keep plates or baggies in the house. You may put the plates on a windowsill or tape the baggies to the window for extra warmth from sunshine. However, remove them before the sun goes down and the window becomes cold.
After three days, open up the paper towel to see if your seeds have sprouted. A white root will be growing out of one end of the seed. Plant 1 inch deep, root pointing down, using the spacing explained in Step 1.