Starting seeds yourself can be really satisfying and is a great way to start off your home garden!
If you’re pressed for time, or don’t have indoor space for seeds, starts from your local garden store can be a great option, but if you can start from seeds, it’s so worthwhile!
It’s especially valuable for people that live here in the Pacific Northwest – our growing season is naturally short, so starting seeds indoors gives us an extra few months head start!
I’ve found I have the best luck with starting seeds indoors, so it’s something I am especially fond of doing when I know I want a really successful harvest.
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Key things to think about when starting seeds for your garden!
I’m excited to share some of the tips I’ve learned over the past decade or so of gardening at our home.
Having Good Quality Seeds Makes all the Difference |
My favorite seeds are the open pollinated or heirloom varieties, which are non GMO, and seem to produce better yields, have better flavor, and have great storage capabilities.
I mention them just about every time I talk about our garden, but I really love the seeds from the Territorial Seed Company. They have a great selection, and wonderful quality.
I usually try to plant seeds that are fresh or packed for that same year.
You can plant older seeds, but the germination rates decrease as the seeds age.
If you have older seeds that you want to try to use, my best tip is to plant 1 extra seed (per hole) for each year the seed is old. So if you’re planting a 2 year old seed, add 1 additional seed into each hole. Plant 3 seeds per hole for 3 year old seeds and so on. That way even if the germination rate is lower, you’re likely to have at least 1 successful sprout.
My favorite way to store my seed packages is to keep them in this wooden recipe box – sorted alphabetically!
And you can even make your own seed packets from my Seed Packet Printable!
Seed Trays & Heat Mats | I’m a big fan of using these seed starting trays when I’m starting plants indoors.
There are a few different types, but pretty much any one with a plastic domed lid to create a mini green house will work the best for aiding germination.
If you happen to have a tray without a lid, you can use plastic wrap for the first few weeks until your seedlings sprout.
I put my seed trays inside our house near our fireplace when they’re first germinating, but I also have been known to supplement heat with a warming mat that can be plugged in and helps raise the soil temperature.
I’ve heard of others that put their seed trays on the top of their refrigerator to help them stay warm.
Whichever option works best for you!
Fill Your Seed Trays With Quality Potting Soil | You may be tempted to just use dirt from your existing garden for your seeds, but it’s actually not advised!
Regular soil from your yard has a few downsides:
- It’s more dense which is harder for seedlings to get established
- You’re more likely to transfer weeds into your new seed pots
- You’ll sometimes have mold issues
My best tip is to use good quality potting soil. If you don’t have any available at your local home store, or just want to try something new, there’s a DIY version!
Make your Own Potting Soil:
- 50% Compost/Organic Matter
- 10% Sand – for drainage
- 40% regular soil
- Bake all three ingredients for 1 hour at your oven’s lowest temperature setting to kill off unhealthy organisms.
- (I like to line regular baking sheets with foil before filling them with soil.)
Make Sure You’re Paying Close Attention to Your Planting Depth | Smaller seeds should be planted much closer to the surface than large seeds!
A good rule of thumb to follow is to double the length of your seed and plant it that far into the ground. So a squash seed that is 1/2″ deep should be planted about 1″ deep. A tiny tomato seed should be planted less than 1/4″ deep.
Water | Keep your seeds moist until they’ve germinated!
Because watering can actually disrupt the seeds (and seed depths), my reccommendation is to bottom water when possible!
If you need to water from the top, you can use a spray mister, or a light “shower” type watering can that distributes the water more evenly.
- Plant your seeds (according to their size and seed packet) into your potting soil and give them a good watering to “water in” the seeds.
- Place your seeds in a warm location with a lid until the seeds sprout.
- Once the seeds have sprouted, change gears from keeping your seeds warm, to giving them the light they need!
- You can either place them outside in the sun (during the day only)
- Supplement with a grow light hanging directly above the sprouts.
- Place them in a bright and sunny location indoors.
- If they don’t get enough light at the beginning stages of growth, most seedlings will become “leggy” (thin and tall) because they’re reaching for the light. Seedlings that receive adequate light can put more energy into growing better root systems and healthier stalks!
- After your seeds have spent about 2 weeks in their sunny location, you can harden them off to get them prepared for transplanting outside.
- I personally leave my seedlings outside during the day as soon as they sprout, and bring them in at night for that 2 week period.
- So my hardening off process is when I start leaving them outside overnight so they can acclimate to being outdoors for 24 hours.
- Once they’re hardened off, you can plant them into your prepared outdoor beds.
- Water them well after transplanting and fertilize if needed.
- After they’re in the ground you can add mulch (my favorite method is called Back to Eden) and keep an eye out for pests.
- My favorite product for dealing with slugs, which are a big deal in my neck of the woods is a product called Sluggo.
Starting Seeds – A Comparison:
For fun this year, we tried planting peas three different ways!
These we planted from seed directly into the soil outside in our garden boxes.
These we started indoor as seeds and transplanted.
These we bought starts from our local garden store and planted.
It was interesting to see and compare how these are growing differently.
And I happily report that the ones we started as seed are the most happy and successful so far!
Now it’s your turn:
I hope this information helps you, and I’d love to hear from you about what you’ve started, how things are going, and other tips or tricks you have!