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Seed Starting: A Complete Guide

Seed Starting: A Complete Guide
Get a head start on gardening this year: start your seeds indoors.

Growing seeds indoors to be planted in the garden when the time is right requires only a few items, some time, patience, belief, and germinating essentials. Children love planting and waiting to see the seeds pop into plants too, making germinating seeds a fun project for the whole family.

Seed Starting Materials



There are only a few requirements for starting seeds indoors. Most of the needs can be purchased at a garden center, nursery, or from Clean Air Gardening. The other important ingredient to succeed in germinating seeds in your home is a south facing window, or a grow light.

Fluorescent grow lights take the place of the sun if you don't have a sunny enough spot. You’ll find all manner of grow lights, plants stands that hold long tube lights, and shelving units to make growing plants indoors easy and convenient. Unless you’re not fortunate enough to have southern exposure, look into what grow lighting is offered to help start seeds. The other needs for starting plants from seed are containers to hold the plants, soil, a fertilizer, and of course, the tiny stars of the show, seeds. Choose organic seeds, if you can.

Containers come in all sizes, shapes, and forms. Fiber, peat and cow manure compost pots, plastic trays with up to 72 cells or use such household items as small plastic containers or even Styrofoam egg trays. All containers should allow for drainage and be sterile. Use sterilized commercial starting soil sold in garden supply stores.

Know When to Start Seeds



As excited as you may be to get those seeds planted take the time to check which zone you live in. Starting seeds too early can result in long, gangly plants that suffer and die when transplanted. Estimate the potential date for planting and count back four to six weeks. Outdoor soil should be warm and all threat of frost past. Most seed companies provide a map of the United States broke down into zones as well as a vast array of seeds to choose from. Plan ahead, order your seeds, and gather everything you need so when the day comes you’re ready to plant.

Seed Starting Tips



  • Read the package of each seed variety to check for special handling instructions before tucking into the soil.
  • If you chose peat pots give them a good soak before filling with starting soil.
  • To help seeds germinate faster, carefully break the surface of the seed with a knife being sure that the embryo is not disturbed.
  • Most seeds will sprout sooner if soaked first for four to eight hours. Letting them soak too long will cause the seed to become waterlogged and lose precious oxygen needed for growth.


  • Try an experiment:

    Use the seed germinating tips on half of one variety and just plant the seeds straight from the packet on the other half. Keep a journal, which is always a good idea, noting the date when the seed sprouts. This will tell you if the “tips” worked or not.

    Planting the Seeds



    When planting the seeds don’t bury them too deep. A good rule of thumb: put as much soil over the seed as it is thick. Tiny seeds can be sprinkled over the top with a light dusting of soil to barely cover. Water the entire tray of planted seeds immediately using a spray bottle damping the soil, not drenching it. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Some seed trays come with a clear plastic covering that works beautifully.

    Caring for Seedlings



    This is the time that patience and belief comes into play. Check your plant nursery everyday and before you know it, you’ll be surprised with tiny spring green sprouts peeking from beneath the plant soil. Now’s the time to remove the plastic wrap or lid, move the seedlings to full sun and nurture with water and a little “tlc.”

    Hardening Off Seedlings



    When your area of the world warms up it’s time to harden your seedlings. Hardening off takes about two weeks and is a must to give the transplants you’ve nurtured the best chance to grow into bountiful plants. Begin by placing the trays in a shaded area for a few hours; gradually increase the time moving them ever closer to direct sunlight. After a couple weeks the little darlings are ready to be planted in the garden.

    Starting seeds indoors gives you a jump on nature. Instead of planting seeds directly in the ground, this year start your seeds indoors. Watching, waiting, and one day being surprised at the peek of green is an amazing way to teach children the cycle of life, as well as renew your faith in the beauty of the natural world.

    Looking for seed starting kits?

    Check out these kits that will be fun for the whole family:

    Organic seed starting kit with tomato and basil
    Organic herb garden trio
    Eggling seed kits
    Miniature greenhouse herb starting kit.