How to Start Garden Seeds Indoors

Since we live in a cold climate with a short growing season, starting some of our garden seeds indoors is a must if we want to maximize our harvest. Last week I shared about selecting garden seeds that grow well in cold climates so this week I’m going to share how to start seeds indoors.

How to Start Garden Seeds Indoors

Most seed packs recommend you sow your seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost. The general rule of thumb where we live is to plant your less hearty crops outside after Memorial Day. This means that we try to get our seeds started indoors by early April.

When deciding which seeds to start indoors, pick out the plant seeds that are not cold hearty and have a longer period of days to harvest time. A lot of seed packs will say if the plants do well being started indoors and then planted out as seedlings.

The seeds I selected to start indoors this year are: broccoli, cabbage, several varieties of tomatoes, and onions. A lot of the seeds we selected for our gardens can be sown directly into the soil and are either early season cold hearty plants (peas, beets, carrots, spinach, lettuce, kale, kohlrabi) or seeds that aren’t cold hearty but are bred for a shorter growing season to be planted out after the last frost (green beans, cucumbers, squash, herbs). Therefore we don’t have a ton of seeds to start inside which is nice since we don’t have a lot of space to put them.

Materials Needed:

  • Seeds
  • Pots
  • Trays
  • Potting Soil or Peat Moss
  • Clear lids or wrap

Over the years as I bought plants and flowers from local greenhouses I kept the pots and trays they came in to reuse every year when I plant seeds. The pots from the local greenhouses are all plastic pots but last summer at a yard sale I found some of the paper pots you can start seeds in and sow directly into the ground so will be trying those out this year also.

seed pots to start garden seeds indoors

The soil you choose is very important since healthy soil means healthy plants. Using potting soil or peat moss works the best since the soils are enriched and are aerated to help water flow. Several times in the past I tried using soil dug out of the ground outside our house to start our seeds but the seedlings did not grow well since the soil was not nutrient dense and the type of soil did not hold water well.

potting soil to use when starting garden seeds indoors
This year we picked up this bag of potting soil at the local hardware store to start seeds indoors.

To start, select the seed pots you want to use for each specific plant. For the onions I chose to use small four pack seed pots since they can be planted out sooner than the tomatoes. The tomato seeds were planted in larger pots to allow enough room for root growth until they can be planted out.

Read the back of your seed pack to determine how deep the seeds should be planted. If the seed pack says ½” depth, fill your pot with soil until about ½” below the top.

how to start garden seeds indoors in pots
Then place a seed on top of the soil in each pot and cover with soil.
starting garden seeds indoors

Make sure you label your seeds so you know what the plants are when they start coming up. I put my seed pots in the cardboard trays from the local greenhouse and just write on the side what the seeds are.

labeling garden seeds started inside

Water the seeds until water runs out the bottom. This is another great reason to have them in a tray which will catch the excess water. The cardboard trays soak up the moisture so I always sit them down in the plastic trays since the cardboard can get pretty flimsy when wet.

I always used to cover my seeds with clear plastic wrap to help hold in the moisture and warmth until they start to sprout. Since we try to minimize the disposable plastic we use in our house, I haven’t bought plastic wrap after the last roll ran out quite a while ago. This year I covered our seeds with the clear plastic containers we occasionally get spinach or mixed greens in at the grocery store.

repurpusing plastic produce containers to grow garden seeds indoors

The seeds will need a lot of light to grow well so place them in a sunny, south facing window. If you do not have adequate sunlight, you may need to get a grow light to hang above the seedlings. I placed our seeds in the south facing window next to our wood stove so they will get a lot of light and warmth. Water the seedlings regularly so the soil is always damp but not soaked or the seeds will rot. Once the seeds start to germinate and poke above the soil, remove the plastic cover.

Once our seedlings start to grow and we get closer to being able to plant them outside, we’ll be sharing how we transition our seedlings outside to plant in the garden.

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This post shared on: Homestead Barn Hop,

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