Growing your own plants from seeds is a great way to save money on gardening. It can literally save you hundreds of dollars every spring compared to buying plants. Plus nothing is more satisfying than being able to grow seeds for your garden. But starting seeds indoors can be tricky and pretty frustrating when you’re a beginner. I want it to be fun and easy for everyone, so that’s why I wrote this seed starting 101 post with tons of tips for starting seeds indoors for beginners!
Tips For Starting Seeds Indoors
In this post, I’m going to break it down to make it much easier for you, and give you all the basics of seed starting 101. We’re going to talk about how to grow from seeds, when to start planting seeds indoors, what seeds need to grow, seed preparation for planting, and then I’ll show you how to sow seeds step-by-step.
How To Start Planting Seeds
Once you make the decision that you want to start planting seeds, you might start to feel a bit overwhelmed. There are a lot of factors involved, but don’t worry, it’s not rocket science. When it comes to starting seeds indoors, the biggest factors are the timing of when to plant seeds, providing the best environment for growing seeds, and seedling lighting and care.
When To Plant Seeds Indoors
Read each seed packet to figure out when to plant seeds indoors, it should tell you the recommended seed starting dates. Generally you need to start seeds six to eight weeks before your average last frost date. Starting seeds too early will result in weak and leggy seedlings, which may not survive the transition to the garden. But starting seeds too late will mean they won’t be mature enough to plant into the garden in the spring. Read more about… When To Start Seeds Indoors
Seed Starting Supplies & Equipment
You don’t need to buy a ton of expensive seed starting supplies and equipment, but you will need to purchase a few things. The main essentials are seed planting trays and a seedling soil mix or peat pellets (and of course seeds!). But, you might also need seed starting grow lights, a heat mat and some fertilizer. I’ll talk about each of these in detail next, so you can figure out what you’ll need to get started.
Seed Trays & Seed Starting Kits: If you’re just starting out, I recommend using plastic seed starting trays, or getting some kind of a seed starting kit (like this peat pellet kit). If you already have seedling trays that you’re planning on reusing, it’s crucial to clean and disinfect them first. This is one step that’s missing in a lot of other seed starting 101 posts, but it is super important! Disinfecting seed trays will help prevent seedling blight (a fungus that causes seedlings to die off at the base), which is a common problem when starting seeds indoors.
Best Soil For Seed Germination: Don’t cut costs when it comes to the soil you use for starting seeds indoors, the quality of the soil is very important when starting seeds. Spend a little more money and buy potting soil that is specifically made for starting seeds (like this organic seed starting mix). Quality soil will help with germination of seeds, and give your seedlings a healthy start in life. You can also make your own DIY seed starting medium using a mix of coco coir or peat moss, perlite and vermiculite, or you can use seed starting peat pellets if you prefer.
Related Post: Seed Starting Peat Pellets -vs- Soil Filled Seed Trays
Seedling Heat Mat: Adding bottom heat under your seed trays helps speed up the germination of seeds, which means your seeds will sprout much faster. Seed starting heat mats can usually be purchased at a local nursery, or you can buy a heat mat here. You could also put your seed trays on top of a radiator or heat vent instead of using a heat mat (as long as it’s not too hot). Just make sure to keep a close eye on the moisture level of the soil; heat sources like this can dry out the soil much quicker (heat mats won’t dry out the soil faster).
Location: A south facing window is the ideal spot for starting seeds. But, if you don’t have a south facing window, find the warmest room in your house. Warmth triggers the seeds that it’s time to start growing, and seedlings will grow better in a warmer room -vs- a cold room. You can always add a space heater if your seed starting room is too cold.
Grow Lights For Seedlings: It’s difficult to grow strong healthy seedlings indoors without the proper amount of light. While a south facing window is the ideal location for seed starting, it won’t provide enough light for your seedlings. Add a few grow lights for the best results. You can get a grow light system for starting seeds, or you can make your own using a fluorescent shop light fixture and grow light bulbs. Seedlings need between 14-16 hours of light every day to grow their best. I recommend getting an inexpensive outlet timer to make sure your seedlings get perfect amount of light.
Related Post: A Beginner’s Guide To Grow Lights For Seedlings
Seed Starting Fertilizer: You don’t need to fertilizer until after your seedlings have grown their first true leaves. Once that starts to happen, then fertilize them with a weak dose of liquid fertilizer. I recommend using a natural, organic fertilizer rather than chemicals because they work better (and are healthier for us). I use (and highly recommend) fish emulsion and an organic compost solution on all of my seedlings. The love it!
Related Post: What To Do With Seedlings After They Sprout
Preparing Seeds For Planting
For most seeds, you don’t have to do anything special to prepare them for planting. Some seeds will sprout better if you soak them overnight. Seeds with a hard seed coat will sprout better when you nick the seeds before you soak them. Read the seed packets to seed if this is necessary for the types of seeds you’re planning to grow.
Seed Starting 101: How To Plant A Seed Step-By-Step
Before you start planting your seeds, read the seed packets to make sure there aren’t any special growing requirements for the types of seeds you want to grow. The general rule for planting seeds is to plant a seed twice as deep as the seed is wide. Teeny-tiny seeds can just be sprinkled over the top of the soil. Once you’re done with that, planting the seeds is easy!
- Loosely fill your seed tray with your seed starting mix (or soak your peat pellets to get them ready for planting)
- Make a hole in the soil first, or gently press the seed into the soil to the correct planting depth
- Cover each seed with soil, and then gently pack it down
- Water your seeds by pouring water into the seed trays (pouring water over the top could disrupt your seeds)
Starting seeds indoors is not only fun, but it’s a great way to get a jump start on the growing season. Plus when you grow seeds rather than buying plants from the garden center, it saves you tons of money. If you want to learn more about how to start seeds for your garden, then check out my Seed Starting Course. It’s an online seed starting 101 training program that will teach you everything you need to know to start your seeds, and I created it specifically for beginners!
More Seed Starting 101 Tips
- Seed Starting Equipment & Supplies
- What To Do With Seedlings After They Sprout
- How To Harden Off Seedlings
- Easiest Seeds To Start Indoors
- Disinfecting Seed Flats and Trays
- A Beginner’s Guide To Growing Vegetables From Seed
For more tips and info on starting seeds indoors, click here… Seed Starting
Share your “seed starting 101” tips for starting seeds indoors in the comment section below.
Products I Use For Starting Seeds Indoors