Seed Starting

What you’ll need to begin starting seeds indoors:

  1. Containers– You will need a shallow container. For a large number of seeds,seed starting trays work very well. If you want an easy way to transplant seedlings later, use peat pots or pellets. Pellets are flat discs that expand when placed in water.
  2. Potting medium– You’ll get your seedlings off to a good start with seed starting soil that is specially made for germinating seedlings indoors.
  3. Seeds– Start with good quality seeds. After waiting several weeks for them to germinate, you don’t want to be disappointed. Some seeds need to be scored or pre-soaked before planting. Make sure you read the instructions listed on each seed packet.
  4. Plastic cover– Seed starting trays often come with a plastic cover. If you don’t have one, plastic wrap will do. This creates a moist environment that encourages sprouting.
  5. Warmth and Light– Seeds won’t germinate and grow without sufficient warmth and light. Choose a bright spot, out of direct sun. For best results, use a grow light. A seedling heat mat will keep the growing medium at the ideal temperature for speedy germination and strong growth.

Find a Good Location

Choosing a suitable spot to surrender to flats of seedlings for several weeks can be a challenge.

Starting seeds indoors in a sunny window is an option. However, for the strongest, healthiest plants, use artificial lights.

Free space on any shelf, bookcase, cabinet or workshop table should not be overlooked.

If space is limited, multi-tiered shelves will provide the most real estate for all your seedling trays. Just be sure to add fluorescent lights above each shelf, if they’re not already built in.

Ready, Set…Sow

The seed starting process itself is simple. There are just a couple steps before sowing the seeds.


Prepare seeds. Most seeds are ready to sow straight from the packet, however, some seed coatings are so hard that they require scoring or soaking first so that they’ll germinate quickly. Directions on the seed packet should tell you whether this is necessary.

  • To score a hard seed coating, use a sharp knife to gently cut an “X” on the seed coating. Do not cut too deeply; make sure you are just scratching the surface.
  • Soaking seeds in warm water for 24 hours will soften the coating and aid in faster germination.


Moisten medium. Seed starting medium should be thoroughly dampened before seeds are sown. Fill a plastic bag with 4 parts medium to 1 part water. Squeeze the bag gently to mix it together. You shouldn’t get mud…the medium should be damp, but not wet.

7 East Steps for Starting Seeds Indoors

  1. Fill clean containers with damp seed-starting medium.
  2. Sow the seeds so they are covered to 3 times their diameter.Do not pack it down.
  3. Make sure you mark your containers. If you’re sowing several types of seed, label each container with the variety of seed and the date planted. Trust me, seedlings look alike, and this will make your life considerably easier.
  4. Cover the containers with the plastic cover that came with the tray, or use plastic wrap. You probably won’t have to water until you see the first tiny, green sprouts come up. Take care not to over water. Soggy soil can promotedamping off, a fungal disease that will kill the seedlings.
  5. Watch for the seedlings to grow their second set of leaves — these are the “true” leaves. It’s now time to thin out the seedlings to give the strongest seedlings more room to grow. You will want to leave only 1 seedling in each pot or pellet. If you used a seed tray or large container, pull out the smaller seedlings, allowing enough space to dig out each plant separately when you transplant them.
  6. Fertilize seedlings only after they develop 3 true leaves. Feed only after watering to avoid fertilizer burn.
  7. Transplant seedlings when their roots are poking through the bottom of the peat pots or pellets. For seedlings grown in trays, it’s a good idea to allow them to grow as long as possible before transplanting. The stronger the seedlings are when you transplant, the better chance for success.

Direct Sowing Outdoors:


The key to starting seeds outdoors directly is the preparation.  The sowing site must be in suitable condition in order to encourage the best overall germination and future growth.  The soil should be free of weeds, large stones, and debris and broken down with a rake or fork.


Often a special seedbed is created for sowing vegetables, some hardy annuals, and tree seeds.  An open, but sheltered spot is chosen and holes are drilled into the soil at specific depths for the seed.  This can be done with the reverse side of a rake head or with the tines of the rake being dragged across the soil surface to create a u-shaped drill.


One of the most important things is that the seed is in good contact with the soil.  If the soil is dry, moisten the drill thoroughly before sowing.


After sowing the seed, rake soil over the drills or cover the seeds with peat and firm the area with the flat face of the rake.  Be sure to label the drills with the appropriate seed variety and sowing date.


Annual seeds can be sown directly into those parts of the garden where they will eventually flower.  Choose a site that is well drained and sunny and sow the seeds in patches to have the best even coverage.  The minimum soil temperature should be 10C and fertilizer is not necessary, although a light dressing of organic matter can be dug into the first few inches of soil.  These annual seeds can also be covered lightly and then firmed with the rake.


When the seed has germinated, it will be necessary to thin out the seedlings to avoid overcrowding.  This should be done soon after emergence and a second thinning may be necessary later on.

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