I always think of seed-starting as a next-level gardening activity, but really, it’s a basic one. But learning how to do it properly can raise your gardening experience to the next level. There are a few tips to successfully growing plants from seed, so let’s take a look at why you might consider it and how it’s done.
The Benefits of Growing from Seed
The bennies are so many, it’s a wonder that not everyone grows everything from seed.
• It saves money. $4 for a small transplant at the garden center, or $2-$3 for a packet of seeds to grow lots of plants? Do the math.
• It’s gratifying. Taking a plant through its whole life cycle is a rush, and doing it with children? It’s a wonder to see it through their eyes.
• It allows for a wider range of plants. Go to the garden center, and you buy what they have. Leaf through a seed catalog, and the sky’s the limit.
• There’s better quality control. I trust my independent garden center to not sell me poor plant material, but let’s be honest — I don’t really know what that plant’s been through before I buy it. Starting my own from seed ensures that my plants are grown the way I want them to be grown.
• You can extend your growing season. Get a head start with your ready-to-go seedlings rather than waiting for what’s available.
What Plants Can I Grow From Seed?
Almost any you can think of, but most gardeners grow veggies, herbs, and flowers from seed successfully. Some are stupidly easy (sunflowers, beans) while others require a bit more finesse (tomatoes or any other tiny seed).
Seed Starting for New Gardeners
In this video Brijette Romstedt, from San Diego Seed Company, shares her best tips on seed starting for new gardeners and the benefits of growing from seeds.
Whether your garden is big or small, make the most of your space with these tips and watch the full Seed Starting for New Gardeners video on the Kellogg Garden Youtube Channel.
So How Do You Do It?
It’s pretty straightforward, and you only need a few supplies.
- Seed-starting mix
- Growing tray or containers (purchased plug trays from the garden center, or repurposed containers like empty yogurt or margarine tubs)
- Plastic wrap
- Lights (actual grow lights or fluorescent lights)
1. Clean your containers, rinse, and let dry.
2. Add your seed starter mix and water very lightly.
3. Plant seeds according to the depth indicated on the package.
4. Cover lightly with seed-starting mix, and gently water. Do not overwater.
5. Cover with plastic wrap or the accompanying tray cover to keep the soil moist, and place in a warm location.
6. Check daily for soil moisture, and remove the cover/plastic wrap when seeds start to sprout.
7. From here on out, you will water from the bottom. Place the containers or tray in a slightly larger tray with a bit of water in it — the seedlings will drink from the bottom up, and will be less likely to develop a fungus that could kill them.
8. Place seedling trays by a bright window and use a grow light (such as a florescent overhead light) above. These lights can be several inches above the tops of the plants, and raised higher as the plants grow.
9. After the seedlings have several sets of leaves, it’s time to start slowly acclimating them to the outdoors. Start with a couple of hours per day, gradually increasing their time until they are outside all day.
10. At this point, you’re ready to transplant your seedlings into the garden. Enjoy! You’re officially a Plant Parent.
10 CommentsLeave a Reply
I have been using paper cups to start seedlings because I can’t tell the difference between weeds and what I am trying to grow. When I transplant weather I cut bottom out and plant the whole cup or pull plant and transplant that way it seems to go into shock for about 4 weeks if it survives. What am I doing wrong.
Hi Timothy! Thank you for reaching out. Transplant shock can happen for a few reasons. If you are starting your seeds inside or in a greenhouse, acclimating them to the outside while still in their paper cups is important. Seedlings need time to adjust to their new home before being transplanted periodically increase the time they spend outside in their new home. Over about a one to two week period you want to harden them off, which means slowly increase the time they spend outside each day. Before transplanting make sure your soil is nutrient-rich, you can do this by adding compost and fertilizer. After you transplant you want to make sure to do a deep water but not so much so that you remove the soil that your seedlings grew in, water around that area so the seedling roots reach out for that water. Finally, weather can play a part some plants are very sensitive to cold and others too much sun, so you may need to cover your plants periodically to give them the optimal growing environment until they can fend for themselves. We hope this helps, please let us know how it goes.
I have new seedlings that I’ve started indoors. There are several in one place of each cup and they’re already tall and falling over with only a couple new leaves. Should I use something to hold them up and/or thin them out?
Hi Jennifer, it is hard to know without seeing a picture of your plants but it sounds like you could do some thinning and maybe pot up or transplant if they are large enough to be outside. When you thin you break them apart at the root and put them in their own containers. Potting up means you are giving them more room or a bigger container to grow in. Before transplanting them outside in a container or by planting them in the ground you want to acclimate them each day to their new outdoor home. If you connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter you can share your pictures and we can see if we are giving you the best advice. 🙂
My seedlings grow really tall and spindly, only have two leaves at the top. I’m trying to grow herbs – basil, cilantro, chives, etc. They are currently 2-3″ tall and leaning all over the place. Is it time to transplant them into bigger planters? Are they not getting enough light? What am I doing wrong?
When seedlings get leggy they are usually trying to get the light. You could take them outside to get some much-needed sunshine if it is warm enough, extending their time outside more and more so they can acclimate. We have a video transplanting here https://youtu.be/Xg1zJNglpbA that may help. 🙂
Link says video not available.
Hi Randy, we apologize for the inconvenience. Here is the link to the Seed Starting video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdvcWEHO7Ak. If you have any issues, please let us know and we will investigate the problem further.
I have quite a few seedlings started and was wondering about fertilizer, if , when, what and how much should be applied.
Hi Toni, once your seedlings have their first set of true leaves we recommend applying an organic liquid fertilizer diluted with water. When you plant them in the garden, we recommend adding an organic granular fertilizer to the planting hole for slow-release nutrients and watering them in with an organic liquid fertilizer mixed with water for quick-release nutrients. It’s important to note that you should always follow the package instructions on the fertilizers. For tips on starting seeds, check out this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdvcWEHO7Ak. We hope you have a great season, happy gardening!