I tried the cornstarch gel and paper towels which successfully sprouted radishes, scallions, and some of the lettuce & broccoli seeds but I had little success with my Walla Walla and Red Onions. I also had no success with Carrots or Spinach. For the sprouts that were successful, I put them straight into the garden (which is under plastic). Of the pre-sprouted seeds I put out from the previous try, the peas are doing the best. Most of them have come up and are about 2 inches tall and looking healthy. The others have been very slow. Part of the problem is probably that the top layer of my garden is currently more like mulch than soil. I plunked the paper towels into the mulch layer to see what they'd do. It's been over a week, but I am starting to see a couple of them poking out. I dug around in there a bit the other day. Some of the seeds look the same as when I put them in, some looked like they dried out and I couldn't find a couple of them (I didn't dig them all out, I was just curious as to what was going on out there). We'll see what the rest do. In the meantime, I'm trying another method which seems to be going better.
I used the same clear plastic egg cartons but I used Organic Starting Soil in them this time. When I filled them, I pressed the soil in pretty firmly so it would pop out intact like a little tiny soil block. I re-sowed both types of onion, the carrots, a few spinach, lettuce & broccoli to fill in for those that didn't sprout. I started these last Thursday, so it's been just under a week. I put them back on the cable box again. Those little soil plugs actually get quite warm on there. I had a couple lettuce sprouts by Saturday! With this method though, you have to be able to take out the sprouts as soon as they appear. One appeared late Friday but I left it until Saturday. It was about an inch tall and looking for some light. I also propped the lids open a bit with a toothpick as the lack of circulation did cause the loss of a couple of the little guys. I'm guessing it was the dreaded Damping Off.
The onions have done much much better this way. I planted out about 14 of them today (in about 40 degree, windy weather to boot...).
Just a little push on the bottom of the egg carton and the little soil plug just pops right. I did have one come out accidentally today but it stayed together well enough to pop back in. When I planted these, I used some pretty well finished compost (from one of the beds I layered in the fall) that was more of a soil-like consistency to use around the little plugs. I think they'll fare a little better that way. I also direct-seeded carrot seeds (in the same compost) and covered them with a square bucket lid (substitute for a board).
I started a few tomato seeds in a few of the empty plugs last night. When these sprout, I'll move them to larger containers and I'll put them under lights to grow.
We had such nice warm weather for a few days, then it got cold again. I really can't complain since it is only March, and the weather forecast looks nice for next week (I'm not sure, but I THINK I saw 77 on the weather chart one day next week???) With the nighttime temps back into the mid-teens, I put the original sheet of plastic over the "new & improved (and uhm, more ventilated) piece that's been covering the bed for the past couple weeks. What I have found is that it seems to stay about 10-12 degrees warmer in there than the outdoor night temps. This must be from the water jugs because with just plastic, the garden thermometer usually reads a couple degrees lower than the one just outside my back door. It's nice to see they make such a difference.