Setting up germination tests

I'm new to germination testing and will be running germination trials on lots of different species (mostly midwest natives). What kind of plates/containers do you use? What kind of media- agar, blotter paper, sand?) do you use and what do I need to know about keeping it watered/sterilized/labeled? 

Do you always steralize your seeds before "planting" them? If so, what protocol do you follow?

Please share your trials and tribulations! Thanks!