Learn How to Start Plants from Seed and Save Money.
Starting your plants from seed is a great way to spend time in the early spring. You’ll have
fun, save money, and you don’t even need a fancy greenhouse.
1. Grow Lights. If you do not have sufficient space near natural light, use fluorescent lights.
They are very good for plants that do not need full sun. They provide only red and blue light, but not the far
red light found in sunlight. For the purposes of transplanting, fluorescent lights are sufficient. If you want
your plants to bloom indoors, you’ll need to add incandescent light as well. Use a 20-40 watt incandescent bulb
for each 20 watts of fluorescent light.
2. Planting Medium. Seeds do not need rich soil to germinate. But make sure the mixture is loose,
well drained, and sterilized. You can purchase a sterile, soilless mix from your garden store. If you want to make
your own, a good recipe is to use 1 part sphagnum peat moss, 1 part vermiculite, and 1 part perlite.
3. Planting Tray & Pan. Just about anything will work as a planting tray. But make sure the
bottom of the tray has holes to allow for proper drainage. Garden stores sell special trays, or just use an egg
carton, peat pots or clay pots with holes in the bottom. You will also need a shallow pan to put the tray in. The
pan will hold the water (start with warm water) and seep up into the tray of seeds. You should never water your
seeds from the top, this causes disease.
4. Seeds. LandscapeUSA has over 400 varieties of seeds available online.
When to Sow Seed
This all depends on where you live and what you want to grow. Gauge seed-sowing on when you want
to transplant outdoors. Take into consideration late spring frosts in your area. On Mount Kolias, in the Northeastern
United States, the normal last freeze day is April 30th. Visit the Weather Channel to see your normal last freeze day.
The type of plants you want to grow will dictate when you should sow seeds. Consult the seed
package for indoor sowing dates. Here’s a short list for vegetables:
1. Place soil into the seed trays.
2. Place the seed tray into the pan of warm water.
3. Sprinkle the seeds onto the soil. Press the seeds lightly into the soil. A general rule to
follow is to press them into the soil at a depth equal to 3 times the diameter of the seed. Fine seeds, such as
petunias, should barely be covered with soil.
4. It is important to sow thinly. If you crowd the seeds, you will get spindly plants.
5. Cover the tray and pan with clear plastic or place them inside a plastic bag. This will retain
the moisture needed for germination. Most seeds do not need light to germinate, but consult the seed package for
6. Keep your mini greenhouse in a place where the temperature is between 72-75 degrees F (day
and night) until the seeds start to sprout. The seeds will germinate more quickly if the pan and tray are placed
over a heat source, such as a radiator or heating pad.
7. It is critical to always have water inside the pan. The secret is to never let the seeds dry
8. When the seeds sprout, remove the plastic cover, the seedlings need air.
1. When the seedlings are an inch tall and have two true leaves, transplant them to pots or boxes.
Use a soil mix of equal parts sand, peat, and loam.
2. Seedlings like cool temperatures. Keep them in an area where it remains between 55-60 degrees
3. Place fluorescent lights over the seedlings if natural light is unavailable. Set the light
on a timer to mimic a day and night phase.
4. After about a week, your seedlings will be ready to eat. Feed them a balanced plant food
5. Maintain your seedlings by watering enough to keep the soil moist. Increase the duration of
the fluorescent light to coincide with the natural light outdoors. In a few weeks, you’ll be ready to transplant