10 Tips for Starting Seeds to Grow a Home Garden

Seeds sprouting in plant pot

So…I just dropped $77 on seeds, and I couldn’t be more excited to get sowing! Starting an organic, pollinator-friendly food garden is in my list of eco-friendly resolutions, and I just took the first step.

Here’s what I bought from Urban Harvest, an Ontario retailer of organic, heirloom seeds:

  • Basil – Italian Large Leaf
  • Basil – Sacred/Tulsi, Chives
  • Catnip
  • Echinacea purpurea
  • Lavender English
  • Sage – Garden
  • Parsley Moss Curled
  • Scarlett Nantes Carrot
  • Amish Paste Tomato
  • Prudens Purple Tomato
  • Lemon Cucumber
  • Zucchini Dark Green
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Buttercrunch Lettuce
  • Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce
  • Cipollini Yellow Onion

Did I get a little out of hand? Perhaps. But am I going to have a ton of fun sowing and growing these seeds with my partner and stepkiddo? Absolutely.

So what’s the next step after my seeds arrive?

Well, each seed variety is unique and has individual requirements, but there are some general tips for success I’ll be using to ensure this investment pays off with fresh food for my family and the local pollinators…

And so, without further ado, here are 10 tips for successfully starting your seeds indoors:

1. Find the best indoor seed sowing spot

Seeds need light for germination, and the ideal setting will provide between six-and-eight hours of direct sunlight each day.

Since I don’t have a single suitable spot in my whole house for such a project, I’ll be investing in a couple of grow lights and starting the seeds in my basement and kitchen. I don’t have the exact details ironed out yet, but I have at least a week to figure it out before the seeds arrive.

2. Get some fresh organic seed starting mix

A major mistake people make is thinking they can dig up dirt from their garden and use it to sow seeds indoors. Sadly, it’s just not the case. Outdoor soil invites unwanted organisms inside your home and is pretty much a wild card when it comes to indoor sowing.

It’s best to use fresh organic seed compost, also known as organic seed starting mix or some seed starting pods made from peat.

3. Sanitize old sowing trays and pots

If you’re reusing plastic trays and pots, make sure they’ve been cleaned out and sanitized with a little vinegar and water solution to ensure no bacteria or mould spores are ready and waiting to ruin your project.

Since I’m starting from scratch, I’m thinking to experiment with a few store-bought biodegradable trays, maybe a HydroFarm germination station (because it comes with its own heat mat and a lid), and a few old egg cartons. I’ll do a comparison post later in the season to tell you which is working best.

4. Use fresh seeds

Fresh seeds are more likely to germinate into healthy plants than seeds that have been improperly stored or previously exposed to sunlight.

I took care of this step by purchasing new seeds this year, but I won’t use all the hundreds of seeds I have coming my way. To keep things fresh, I’m planning to save some in secured containers in dark, cool spots and try my hand at making seed bombs as gifts.

5. Follow the packet instructions

It seems simple, right? Get seed, sow seed, water seed, done. I wish. You see, every seed has its own needs and not following the packet instructions is basically ignoring nature’s wishes.

Once I get my seeds, I’m going to sit down and read what each needs before moving forward.

6. Label the trays and pots

Once you’ve actually put your seeds into the starting mix or peat pod, it’s time to get out a label and pen. In the past, I’ve used popsicle sticks because they’re biodegradable, but note that the ink tends to run on this material—especially if the stick is holding up plastic wrap that inevitably collects condensation.

This year is my year to experiment so I’ll try the popsicle sticks again, but also a colour-coded tape system and a masking tape with Sharpie option.

7. Water after sowing

Along with light, your little seeds need water in order to sprout. Give them a good drink with some fresh, room-temperature water.

8. Cover to conserve moisture

If your seeds dry out, so do your dreams of having a self-sowed garden this spring. You can prevent this from happening by simply adding a layer of plastic wrap to the top of your container or using the lid that came with your store-bought seed tray.

The cover means you needn’t water your seedlings, but that’s not the same as saying your work here is done.

9. Do a daily check-in

Little seeds need a lot of love, so plan to do a daily check-in. What are you looking for?

  • Moisture — make sure there’s an adequate amount of moisture.
  • Mould — make sure you don’t see any mould. If you do, it’s a sign the moisture is too high. Remove the mould and adjust humidity levels or coverage.
  • Seedlings! — the best part of this process is seeing your seeds sprout into seedlings. Congrats! Once this happens, you can remove the cover, unless your humidity levels are very low.

10. Transplant seedlings as they germinate

You needn’t wait until the whole tray is fully germinated to transplant into your outdoor garden or a larger pot. Once your seed is a seedling with a viable root system, you can remove it from the bunch and plant it in your spring garden or a larger container.

Stay tuned to see how my indoor seed starting project goes. I’ll be posting updates and original pics of the process. Want to join in? Post your indoor seed starting pics in the comments for the community.

Cover image credit: Pixabay


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  1. […] upfront low cost of perennial seeds or seedlings is an investment in the sustainability of your home […]

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