How to Start Your Seeds Indoors

It’s that time of year when you can start planning for your planting!

Many people are beginning to plant vegetables and flowers indoors in order to transplant them outdoors when the weather is warm enough. This helps you get a head start on your spring garden. Check out the advice below to see what things you can do to start your indoor seeds.

Growing your own foods in your garden can help you become more self-sufficient - saving you money and allowing you to grow the foods that your family will need. It’s also a great way to help teach children about responsibility and work.

- When is produce in season? - 

When
The date you determine to plant your seeds will vary depending on where you live. You’ll want to figure out when the last frost of the season will be. It also depends on what you’re growing. If you are planting something that grows quickly, you don’t need as much time before the final frost. If you having something that grows slowly, you’ll need lots of time. Usually the seed packs will have an indication on the label of how many weeks are required before transitioning to an outdoor setting.

Usually, you’ll want to move seedlings outdoors when it’s consistently above 50-degrees both night and day.

Lighting
One of the most difficult aspects to overcome when starting seedlings indoors is light. You can start seeds in a windowsill that gets at least 8 hours or light per day. Most gardeners will need to use additional lighting or special machines to simulate the sun. Even if you use an artificial light, you may need your plants to be under the light for 12-15 hours a day.

Seed Choice
You might not be able to use any seed that you’d like. Remember that you’re going to have to transition these plants into larger pots that will end up taking more space. If the plant grows rapidly, you’ll have to have space to expand your plant area quickly. You’ll also have to be able to adapt quickly. If the plants don’t grow that well indoors, you might have to restart - be sure you can pick a plant which has inexpensive seeds.

You probably shouldn’t grow things like lettuce, spinach, cabbage, beets, onions, potatoes, or carrots indoors. They usually take up a lot of space or don’t transplant very well.

Soil
You should also consider what type of soil you’ll be using. Using potting soil to start your plants indoors might give them an initial advantage. Be careful that when you transition the plants outdoors that you’re still giving them enough nutrients that were provided with a potting soil. Since potting soil is full of things like peat, vermiculite and fluffy matter that retains water well, you’ll have to ensure that these same elements are present in the outdoor soil to the plants aren’t shocked when they’re transplanted.

- You can grow plants during the winter in the ground? - 

Warmth
After all, you’re starting your seeds indoors so they won’t die in the cold winter frosts. Seed starting starts in two stages: Germination and growing. Germination is also known as the sprouting stage - when the embryo of the plant emerges from the seed casing. You’ll need to water the sprouts during that stage, but more importantly, you’ll need to apply gentle heat to the sprouting seeds. You can place them on top of your fridge or a few inches above your radiator. There are also a number of heating mats sold for heating seedlings.

After the seedling start to grow and they’re placed in soil, you’ll need to make sure that the plant stays warm enough. Remember that your house might get cooler next to windows and at night. While you’re wrapped up in a blanket, your plants are not. Be sure to keep them at least at 50 degrees or above.

Watering
While some gardeners are accustomed to allowing their plants flourish in the rain, indoor plants won’t be able to do that. You’ll have to make sure that your plants are getting enough water. In the same stroke, you’ll want to make sure that your plants aren’t being over-watered and become too moist indoors growing mold.

- 10 Edible Wild Plants to Save Your Life - 

Transition
The weather can be unpredictable. For that reason, it’s a good idea to slowly transition your plants to the outdoors. Set them outside for a day allowing them to grow accustomed to the outdoor weather. If the weather gets too cold, you can pull them back indoors. If the weather continues to improve, plant them in the ground.

Your Advice
What advice do you have about planting indoors? What have you learned? Comment below and share your knowledge with others.

You might also be interested in:
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11 thoughts on “How to Start Your Seeds Indoors”

  • Cassey

    If you are moving toward self sustainability, want to be more earth friendly, of just want to eat healthier food, Do Not use GMO seeds. The Documentary "The world according to Monsanto" explains it all very well. (full length documentary is avail free on youtube).
    - The ready store has non-gmo seeds !
    Think Spring !!!

    Reply
  • Richard Francis..
    Richard Francis.. February 17, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    I use measureing spoons to water my small plants..and a measureing cup for larger.Can't over water or under if done right..You can save money by bringing in enough soil and adding a little water and zap away in a micro safe container in the microwave ,to kill the bugs to start you plants in also..and don't for get your spices and mushrooms..

    Reply
  • Passerby

    Even though I live in the country, the ground is very rocky; hard to plow up and very time-comsuming to pick out rocks...such are my excuses. Last Spring I started purchasing the 'City Planters' from Home Depot...hold 10in. of soil, a tube in one corner to pour water in and holds it in the bottom, and sits on four casters...20x30in. I think. I can start seedlings in these (inside) and later just roll them out into the driveway, deck, or out in the yard; no transplanting. I have grown tomatoes, sweet peas, spinach, herbs, broccoli, brussel sprouts, onions, peppers, etc. but not good for corn, purple hulls, melons, etc. Good things to put your ReadyStore seeds in! Now if the ReadyStore could make one with a clear plastic hood on it...hint hint!

    Reply
  • JoAnne

    yes you can start cabbage and onions indoors and transplant out doors. Everyone in cold areas does this. Onions: if you are planting from seed you will need to do this .If using sets you can plant directly outside. There is also onion bundles which are plants grown from seeds pulled up bundled and you replant again directly in the garden. Advantage to growing from seed? the onions keep longer as they are a first year plant not a second year plant like a set.

    Reply
  • Hank

    Each seed will make on plant. Not all seeds grow though, so plant more seeds than you need. When you plant your seeds, fololw the directions on the package. It will tell you how much dirt to put on top, how far to space each plant, and how long it will take for the seed to start growing. Water your plants whenever the soil feels dry. You don't want to over-water them so just make sure the soil is always damp.The best planters to start seeds are small styrofoam cups. Poke a little hole in the bottom to let the extra water out. Put that cup inside another one, without a hole, to catch th ewater so it doesn't make a mess. Good luck on your planting and on your project!

    Reply
  • Cat

    Lining a piece of cardboard or two into an L shape in foil or a mylar blanket(s) surounding your seedlings growing area will provide more reflective light.

    Reply
  • jess

    Cassey mwntioned the documentary “The world according to Monsanto”. I also agree that Everyone should watch it. (even if you don't garden) It absolutely made me a better gardener, and helped me make better choices from fertilizer to seed selection and beyond. Thanks for Posting!

    Reply
  • jess

    Cassey mentioned the documentary “The world according to Monsanto”. I also agree that Everyone should watch it. (even if you don't garden) It absolutely made me a better gardener, and helped me make better choices from fertilizer to seed selection and beyond. Thanks for Posting!

    Reply
  • Pat

    Why is it necessary to start plants in a small container, then transplant to a larger container (while still growing inside the house)? Why can't I just start the seeds in a larger container and then transplant outside when it is time? It seems it would be better because I don't have to disturb a very small plant by repotting it. I didn't have very good luck last year, I had several plants that looked good inside but didn't last outside and I planted them outside on the conservative/late side. Any advice would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Northwoods Cheryl
      Northwoods Cheryl February 24, 2016 at 12:39 am

      Many plants need some transition time outside before planting them into your garden. I am in northern Wisconsin. I take my seedlings (in their containers yet) place them in a box, and then take them outside in a sunny yet sheltered area for a few hours a day to start with. Let them get used to the breeze and actual unfiltered sunlight. Take them back in. Then I set them out again the next day for more outdoor time. Eventually I leave them out there all day. They need to toughen their stems to manage wind, etc. Be sure to watch that they don't dry out when doing this! I also don't plant them in tiny little cubicles and then replant to bigger ones. I start them in peat pots which can be set directly into the soil, and act as a natural fertilizer. If your plants look very thin and spindly indoors, it's because you don't have enough light. Some will get a fungus and just wilt away. That is called "damping off". Having a set of aquarium tubes or grow lights in a fixture, placed about 2" above the plants helps immensely. I have mine on a pulley system suspended by furnace chain. I can pull the light fixture up to keep it above the plants as they grow. Not everyone will want to bother with that, but for an investment of about $50, it's continued to work for years. Mostly, I would say, just take them outside in a box over several days to get used to the outdoors before actually planting them. It will probably help a lot.

      Reply
  • Angelcrest

    I am not an expert gardener, but am a gardener in training. I did take classes last summer offered by a local organic gardener & learned a lot. Many areas of the country have local gardening clubs & they are well worth the membership fees just for the knowledge the more experienced gardeners can offer & provide.

    To answer the questions about starting seeds indoors & then transplanting.... Seeds started indoors will need a hardening off process before they can successfully be planted outdoors. That basically means that the new seedlings are gradually exposed to outside conditions. Also when transplanting, be sure to water the hole, add a good amount of composted material & mulch around the new seedling.

    I killed many seedlings until I learned that compost & mulch are my best friends for any gardening success. I also learned to research & figure out which plants are heavy feeders... tomatoes for example will need frequent applications of composted materials throughout the growing season.

    I am using raised beds & recycled 100 gallon livestock tanks. I now prepare those beds & containers by composting & mulching heavily in the off season or between crops. I add at least 12 inches of old, composted manures, leaves & shredded paper to each bed or container, then cover with at least 12 inches of old hay for mulch. I use that heavy a layer of mulch as it chokes out the weeds, protects the seedlings when I do plant & helps maintain good moisture levels.

    Know ahead of time, that sometimes no matter what you do, things just won't grow well that year. 2014 was a horrible year for tomatoes in this area, but lettuce & eggplant did well. That is part of the reason gardens have a variety of different fruits & vegetables planted.

    There are many good gardening guides available. Look for ones suitable for your area. I find a lot of gardening books at yardsales, estate sales & thrift stores.

    Reply
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