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Lights, Camera, Seedlings!

How I start seeds for my garden


I thought today I’d share with you the part of my garden that is most exciting to me at the moment: My pots of seeds beginning to germinate!

I’m a huge fan of growing plants from seed. It is really affordable, lets me get my hands on some really cool, unusual plants, but most of all – it is so much fun! There is something magical about tiny brown seeds turning into green growing plants right before my eyes.

There are a lot of ways to put together a seed starting setup, but this is what has worked for me and allows me to grow a wide range of different plants from seed with minimum fuss and problems. (for more information on seed starting, check out this awesome collection of articles and videos: All About Starting Seeds.)

I added this little fan to my seed setup a few years ago when I visited commercial greenhouses and realized they all had fans in them to keep the air moving and reduce disease. I find that having a little air movement has basically eliminated problems with seedlings collapsing and dying due to damping off. This small thing has made my seed starting life a LOT easier.


Just this year, I clipped these heavy, light-blocking curtains around my light shelves, and I love them! Instead of the light all streaming out into the rest of my house, the white inside of the curtains reflects the light back in on my plants where they can use it to photosynthesize! A cheap, easy way to maximize the amount of light my seedling are getting.

I used to sow my seeds two or three to a little pot and thin out the extras. But I hated throwing out the extra seedlings, and If I had low germination, I hated having empty pots. Now I sow all my seeds together in larger pot. Once the seedlings get big enough to handle, I slide the soil out of of the pot, separate out the individual seedlings, and transplant each one to its own pot to grow on. It may sound fussy, but it is actually easy to do. What’s more, now I don’t waste seeds, and every single pot gets one healthy seedling.

This is the biggest way I’ve made my seed-starting life easier: Starting seeds outside! For hardy perennials, especially, I like sowing seeds outside in the fall. The cold temperatures of winter help trigger germination in a lot of species, and then they come up in the spring once the weather warms. No need for lights, and no fuss. It is the easiest way to start seeds. I start frost tender plants like tomatoes indoors, but almost everything else I do outside.

View Comments


  1. user-3565112 03/15/2018

    Good morning, T hank you for your post. I have never had any luck starting seeds indoors but try every year. I hope to start a cottage garden from seed this year & will try your method with the fan & curtain. Also, do you use heating pads ?
    Thank you & good luck, Joe

    1. grannieannie1 03/15/2018

      I've also been winter sowing seeds outside in January and February in milk jugs without lids and other containers. This is my third year and quite a relief not having so many seedling trays inside. There is a good "Winter Sowers" site on line where you can get lots of info from folks, many even in Zone 4 have great success. I'm in zone 6b and have right now seedlings outside of : alyssum, poppies, coreopsis, daisy, armeria and some others. Some folks even have success with tender zinnias and tomatoes if they cover them at night with a blanket.

  2. garden1953 03/15/2018

    What is it that you use for labeling? Also, when you say you start seeds outside all winter, are they in a covered area? In what zone?I don't think that would work for me in zone 4.

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 03/15/2018

    I always admire people who are this organized and proactive about seed starting. does not seem to be in my dna. I love it when Mother Nature takes over and allows desirable (to me) annuals and perennials to reseed... but left to my own efforts....not going to happing.

  4. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 03/15/2018

    Thanks for sharing your set up, Joseph. I might try to add a fan or two to my basement overwintering ground and seed starting area. Thanks for the tip.

  5. btucker9675 03/15/2018

    Haven't done enough starting from seeds, but these tips have inspired me. Maybe I'll get disciplined and do it!!

  6. user-7007940 03/15/2018

    Very nice setup. I have grown a lot from seeds too, but I took a break from doing it this year.

  7. [email protected] 03/17/2018

    I have usually failed miserably with starting seeds indoors, but now I have a garden shed with good daylight, and may try a light set-up and fan system...also the black-out curtains. Good information and inspiration!

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