How to start seeds indoors

Starting crops from seed is a satisfying and economical way to grow your own plants, flowers, and veggies. Here's our getting-started guide

Sowing seeds in containers
Photo: Norman A. Plate

Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, need a long, warm growing season to produce a harvest.

If you plan to grow your own seedlings, start such crops indoors in late winter in order to have plants ready to set out in the garden when the weather has warmed up. 

If you want to plant tomato seedlings in May, for instance, you'll need to start those seeds by early March.

Veggie 101: How to start your garden

Starting seeds in containers is also a useful way to have plants of cool-season crops, such as broccoli and cabbage, ready to transplant into the garden in early spring or fall.

You can use a variety of containers, including flats or trays (with or without dividers), small individual pots, and cell-packs. If you’re reusing old containers, scrub them out, and soak them for half an hour in a solution of one part household bleach to nine parts hot water to destroy any disease organisms.

Seeds to seedlings

1. Fill 4-inch pots to just below the rim with a light, porous seed-starting or potting mix. (You can make your own mix by combining 1 part each of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite.) Moisten the mix, and let it drain.

Scatter seeds thinly over the surface. Check the seed packet for the recommended planting depth, and cover the seeds with the proper amount of mix. (As a rule of thumb, cover seeds to a depth equal to twice their diameter.) Label each container with the plant’s name and the date. Moisten the soil lightly.

Next: transplanting

 

    More...

  • Step 2: how to plant seeds

    Separate seedlings

    To remove the seedlings from their original pots, squeeze each pot’s sides, and turn it upside down, keeping one hand around the soil ball. With both hands, carefully pull the soil ball apart, and set it down on a flat surface.

  • Step 4: how to plant seeds

    Support the tiny plant from below

    Carefully lift each seedling and its rootball, keeping your fingers under it for support. Place the seedling in its new container, and firm the mix around it.

  • Best crops for pots

    The best crops for pots

    You can grow most standard-sized crops in containers. Here's a guide to the best

  • How to plant vegetables

    Veggies 101: How to start your garden

    Here's how to get started growing your own fresh, delicious food in garden beds or pots

Most Popular

  1. 53 favorite backyard projects

    Our favorite DIY patios, paths, trellises, planters, fountains, and more
  2. 10 raised bed garden ideas
  3. 20 favorite perennial flowers
  4. Top 45 hikes in the West
  5. 20 colorful plants for shade gardens