Starting Seeds: A How-To

by GettingFreedom on March 18, 2009

With all the talk about gardening the last few days, I have received a lot of questions on how I do things. For more about why we chose seeds, see this post.

Here is my basic list of things to keep in mind when trying to grow plants from all those precious little seeds.

  • The back of your seed packet, most of the time, will tell you how far in advance of your last frost you should start your seeds. As a general rule, most of them are 4-6 weeks before last frost. You can find out your last average frost date by going to this website.

  • Then you will need something to start your seeds in. I got my flats from a local greenhouse that was going out of business., or you can find them online. You know the six pack of plants that you buy from Wal-Mart in the little black containers? That is what these are, except, there are 48 to a sheet. I love these, and I will definitely be buying more in the future. If you cannot get your hands on these, you can buy Jiffy pots almost anywhere that sells gardening goods. I, personally do not have much luck with the things, but I know a lot of people do.

  • Then you are going to need “dirt” of some form. Seeds need a lot of nutrients and such to get started. I used Miracle Grow Seed Starting Potting Mix to get mine started. So far so good! I did look for one that had very little, if any peat moss. I did this for a couple of reasons, the main one being that there is speculation that the peat moss slows germination, especially in peppers. Not sure if that is fully true or not, but I wanted to get as quick of germination as I could.

  • Keep your seeds moist, do not let them dry out! But, you also do not want them swimming in water, either. Once they have sprouted, make sure that you water the dirt, and not the leaves of the new seedlings. Watering the leaves encourages mold, which could eventually kill your new seedlings. I don’t think you want that!

  • I used Saran wrap to cover my flats, or you could use a plastic dome. This held the moisture and the humidity in so that the seeds can germinate. Once the seeds have germinated and are up, you should remove your cover.

  • I know a lot of people use grow lights. I do not, so I do not have experience in this area. I do know, though, that you want to keep them relatively close to the new seedlings, but leaving a couple inches between the seedlings and the light. Also, your light (or your seedlings) need to be able to be moved up or down, as to allow room for your new seedlings to grow. I keep my seeds in my greenhouse so that they receive plenty of light, plus the temperature is alot warmer in there. If you do not have either one of those, you can just place your new seedlings in a sunny window.

  • Using a fan next to your growing plants will help to strengthen your plants before being planted outside. You can also exercise your plants by gently running your hands back and forth over their tops.

  • Once your seedlings get their second set of leaves, they should be transplanted into a bigger pot. Doing so gives the roots more room to grow and support the plant on top. This will help prevent them from getting too leggy and eventually dying off.

  • Before your plants are ready to be planted outside they should be hardened off. Your seedling are used to a regulated environment, and we all know that the outside is not! Basically all you need to do, is set your seedlings outside for a few hours at a time, slowly increasing the time, for about a week before they are planted outside. Armed with your last average frost date, this will help you determine when you should plant outside. Also, if you have a local University Extension office, they can help you with plant dates as well, and any other questions that you may have. Plus, it’s free!

It’s working for me ! Although, my camera cord is not! I had lots of pictures to share–but I cannot for the life of me get my pictures to transfer to my computer. Hopefully I will be able to update later.

This post is also linked to: Frugal Friday over at LifeAsMom.

If you have any questions, just let me know! If I don’t personally know the answer, I will do my best to find it for you.
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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie Bagamary March 18, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Great info. Last time I had trouble getting my photos to transfer to my computer, my computer son suggested I restart my computer and it worked!


Amy @ Finer Things March 18, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Awesome info! I wonder if I should take the dome off of my flat. My cucumbers and tomatoes are touching the dome, but some other seeds haven’t sprouted yet…

I think I need new pots already for my cucumbers!


Christine March 18, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Great, and so simple. Thank you very much. My deal was hardening … the worst luck with that one.


Amy March 18, 2009 at 6:53 pm

I just found your blog and it is great! We have a lot in common. We are trying to get out of a mountain of debt but still have a long way to go. We live on one income too and have cut way back on all our expenses to pay off about $20,000 in the last 18 months. We are about to begin our 3rd year gardening and I still have not tackled starting seeds again. After reading your posts I wish I would have! Your enthusiasm and willing to learn made it not seem so complicated. Did it cost you a lot for the start up materials for your seedlings? I was kind of worried about that. Having a greenhouse must be awesome. I have always wanted one, even when I was a floral designer before any of the 7 kids came along. Great job!!


Momof3 March 19, 2009 at 3:42 am

If you haven’t planted your seedlings yet, its not too late. We are doing well with our although a few jiffy pots are still empty, not from lack of trying. We have replanted many of our plants and need to plant some more so that’s probably what I’ll be doing this weekend. I can’t wsit until Mother’s Day because that is when the threat of frost is gone and we can really get “growing”. lol sorry, I couldn’t help myself.


steadymom March 19, 2009 at 7:57 am

This is really helpful – thanks!



mycuprunnethoverandsodoesmytodolist March 20, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Thank you so much for this! We are starting our flowers/veggies from seeds this year and I did not know some of this info.! I am going to pass it on to my hubby!

God Bless!


~Sara March 21, 2009 at 3:08 am

Thanks for all the tips we are starting our seedlings this weekend.


Lindsay March 23, 2009 at 8:19 pm

This post was so helpful as we attempted our first planting. 4 of our 12 seedlings sprouted today and I posted pictures on my blog!


Carolyn G April 6, 2009 at 2:44 pm

My seedlings have their leaves and I transplanted but my cucumbers seem to be dying off. How much should I water them now? Should they be damp all the time or should I let them dry out a little? This is my first time .


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