Knowing how to start seeds indoor can be the key to a successful vegetable garden, but starting seeds is more than dropping seeds in soil and hoping. Use the steps below to ensure your seeds grow strong so you have the best garden around.
When you ask someone why they grow their own food, you’re likely to get a wide variety of answers. Some grow so they can feed their family the highest quality food. Others grow for enjoyment. Some grow for to be more self-reliant and others grow a garden to save money at the store.
Frankly, with the way we have seen food costs rise over the past two years, it’s not surprising to me that more people are looking to learn how to garden.
Most gardeners, both new and experienced, will start at least some of their seeds indoors, but starting garden seeds inside is not as simple as plopping a seeds in soil and calling it good.
In fact, it actually begins with some research.
What Seeds Are Best to Plant?
The absolute first step to growing any garden is to choose your seeds. You could run down to your local Walmart and grab your seed packets from there, but then you must deal with the question of what the quality of the seeds you just bought is.
Yes. Seed quality matters a lot more than most gardeners, especially new gardeners, realize. If you’re growing your own food for health purposes, this is especially important.
Personally, I will only grow heirloom seeds. This ensures two things; first that I am only growing non-modified food of the highest quality and secondly, that I am able to save seeds from my garden harvest for the next planting season. Having my own seeds to start the next years season saves more money than you may think.
If you plan to save seeds, you must grow heirloom seeds. You can not re-grow seeds from genetically modified foods.
What Vegetable Seeds Can Be Started Indoors?
If you are choosing to start your garden from seeds and not seedlings, you pretty well have the option to start almost anything. There are a few plant varieties such as beans, cucumbers and beets that are sown directly into the soil, but a vast majority of what home gardeners grow can be started in pots.
Some can actually be grown fully in pots with no real need to transplant them later on.
A few of the seeds you can grow indoors can include vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, peppers, broccoli, kale, spinach and cauliflower. Basically, you can start a whole salad garden inside if you want!
What Is the Easiest Ways to Start Seeds?
Starting seeds indoors is definitely the easiest way to start seeds. Once you have the proper equipment and have chosen your growing medium, you can get things started. Then, when you’re ready, you can transplant your seedlings outdoors.
Growing indoors has the advantage of being able to start early and of being able to control the conditions your little seeds are grown in while they sprout and become strong enough to be moved outdoors.
What Equipment Do I Need to Start Seeds Inside?
Like any garden, you’ll need the proper equipment to get your seeds started.
To start, you’ll need a container to grow each seed in. This can include a portable seed starting greenhouse with a seed tray, peat moss pellets, yogurt cups with a seed-starting mix, empty k-cups, mason jars, or even biodegradable peat pots. I’ve even seen people use egg shells!
No matter which container you choose to use, you’ll want to ensure it has the proper drainage holes. Without them, you risk your seeds growing in too much moisture and possible root rot or mold issues.
You’ll also want to consider plant grow lights and a heat mat, additional potting soil if you’re keeping your plants indoors indefinitely, organic fertilizer and any other soil additions you may be looking at.
What Is the Best Container to Start Seeds Indoors?
Personally, I have had amazing luck with a portable greenhouse like THIS and peat moss pellets for starting my own seeds. However, as with anything, it is your garden and the best container to start your seeds will be whatever works best for you.
As long as the container you’re using is a food-grade container, you will be fine. Do not use plastics that are not food grade. Doing so could cause chemicals and toxins to leech from the plastic into your soil contaminating your plants.
What Month Do You Start Seeds Indoors?
Once your equipment is in order, you’ll need to know when to sow your seeds indoors.
The month you start seeds will depend on knowing your garden zone. If you’re unfamiliar with this term, the USDA has put out a plant hardiness zone map that will tell you. The United States is broken down into regions that all plant at different times and all have the ability to grow different plants.
For some, like me, planting season starts indoors in February. Others will wait until April or May to start theirs. Essentially, you will want to sow seeds indoors around 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. This ensures they will have plenty of time to get a good start before they are transplanted outdoors.
Do Seeds Need Light or Dark to Germinate?
Most seeds will germinate very well in darkness, but this will depend solely on the seeds you’re planting. Some seeds, like lettuce, require light to germinate so before you plant, you’ll want to make sure you read the seed packet for that information.
Once your seeds have sprouts, they will need around 12-16 hours a day to continue to strengthen. Since you’ve started indoors, you’ll need to replicate sunlight. This can be done with fluorescent lights or a grow lamp like I discussed earlier.
Should You Soak Seeds Before Planting Indoors?
Again, whether to soak your seeds or not will depend on that type of seeds you’re planting. Certain vegetables germinate better when they are soaked while others do best not soaked. Some seeds, like rosemary, actually need to be refrigerated before they’re sown.
If you’re planting corn, pumpkin, beans, chard or peas outdoors, you will want to give them a good soak before planting. Carrots, radish, celety, lettuce and spinach do not need to be soaked. As always, check your seed packet or planting information before you start them.
Should Seeds Float or Sink When Soaking?
As you soak your seeds, you may notice a few float to the top. This is a well-known method of testing how viable the seeds are. If you have seeds that have floated, it’s best to throw them out. These seeds are often missing a viable embryo – yes, it’s really called that – or proper nutrition stores to germinate properly.
However,when you’re soaking or testing for plant viability, be mindful not to agitate the water. Doing so can give you a false positive and cause seeds that are good to float to the top. Instead, wait a few minutes and allow the water to fully settle before making your decision.
How Do I Plant Vegetable Seeds Inside?
Once you have the research done, you’re ready to start planting your seeds. Gather your equipment.
Prepare your planting surface by adding a peat moss pellet or your seed starting soil. If you’re using soil, you may want to consider adding something such as perlite to help with soil drainage.
Add 2-3 seeds for each plant you’re planting at the proper depth for each type of plant. A good rule of thumb is 1/2″ deep if you are unsure. Having your seeds at the proper depth ensures they have what the need to germinate. If they’re too shallow, they may get more light than needed and if they’re too deep, they may not receive enough or have enough room to set their roots. The reason you are adding more than one is to increase your germination rate.
Gently water each planted area very well. Be sure not to over saturate the soil, but you’ll want to water well enough to reach the areas where the roots will be growing. Continue to water your plants whenever they are dry to the touch. Good watering is important so be sure to keep an eye on it.
It can also be helpful to place a heating mat specifically designed for plants under their containers. This keeps the soil at a proper temperature for the best germination.
Between 1 and 4 weeks later, you will begin to see your sprouts pop up. At this point, bring out your grow lights. At this stage, your plants will need between 12 and 16 hours of light. This will, of course, depend on whether they are a full sun or partially shaded plant.
At this point, you’ll need to thin out the excess seeds you planted. Take a look at each individual sprout. Remove all except the strongest one from each container. This is as simple as pinching the leaves off. If you can remove the root without disturbing the strong sprout, go ahead, however, try not to do too much damage.
Continue to water your plants and feed them the light they need for photosynthesis to happen. After they have grown true leaves – and not just the two or three they get when sprouting – they’re ready to be temperature hardened and planted outside.
How Do I Harden Seedlings To Be Transferred Outdoors?
When you’re certain the last frost has passed and your seedlings have true leaves, it’s time to move them outdoors. Before you do this though, you’ll need to get them used to the difference in temperature between your home and the outfoors.
This is quite simple to do. Simply place your plants outside for a short time and then bring them back inside. As you do this daily, extend the amount of time they are outdoors by a little bit every couple of days.
Within a few days, you’ll be ready to transplant them and well on your way to a bountiful harvest.