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Seed Starting: Basics and Equipment

Starting seeds isn’t difficult, but this video will show you a few keys to doing it right

Video: Fine Gardening

If you’ve never started seeds before, check out these videos to learn some of the basics of getting your seedlings off to the best possible start.

When is the right time to start your seeds? It depends from plant to plant.

How will I know if I should start seeds yet? Check the seed packet for information on the best time to start seeds and transplant the seedlings. Many seeds need 8 to 10 weeks prior to the last frost date to get going, but some need less time.

What is my last frost date? You can check your last frost date by going to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone website. Learn more about zones here.

What equipment do I need to start seeds?

  • Seedling containers. These might be peat pots, a plug tray, a seed-starting kit, or Jiffy pots. Want to save a dime? You can also use recycled containers such as yogurt cups or other used food containers.
  • Seed-starting soil mix. Lighter and fluffier than topsoil, this mix will make it easier for seeds to push through to sprout.
  • Light source. This can be an artificial light or a sunny windowsill.
  • Heating source. A heat mat underneath the seedlings will work. You can also use a radiator.
  • Watering method. While a watering can may do fine if used carefully, many gardeners prefer to water seedlings from the bottom to ensure that the delicate seeds aren’t displaced by a heavy overhead watering. Another option: If you don’t have a large-enough tray to set seedlings in for bottom watering, use a mister to water from above. Learn more about how to water seedlings.

How do I plant seeds?

  1. Fill the seed tray with your seed-starting soil mix.
  2. Add water to the soil to moisten it.
  3. Read the back of your seed packet for information on how deep the seed should be planted.
  4. Place two to four seeds per cell or container, and cover as suggested in the seed packet’s directions.
  5. Water seeds again.
  6. Cover, if you prefer.
  7. Move the tray under the most direct light possible and on top of the heating mechanism to ensure the seeds feel warm enough to sprout. Note: The closer the light is to your seedlings, the less “leggy” they will be. This is why artificial lights are generally recommended.
  8. Once seedlings sprout, remove any cover used and adjust the light so that your seedlings aren’t brushing up against it.
  9. With the cover removed, you can set up a fan to circulate air for the seedlings, which helps prevent rot or fungus from developing.

The four most important things to remember for seed starting?

Moisture, warmth, light, and ventilation.

Account for those variables and you are ensured success!



Previous: Seed-Starting Strategies Next: Space-Saving Seed Starting
View Comments


  1. blondie3 08/21/2021

    Thant was informative and direct, I can do it, thank you

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Gardening Basics

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Seed Starting
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