When I first started gardening I thought it would be SO HARD to grow plants from seeds indoors, so I usually bought starts from a nursery other than the few seeds you 'had' to start yourself outdoors like beans and carrots. I mean, there was timing, feeding, lighting - basically lots of things (it seemed) that I had to figure out.
When I finally decided to try - mainly because I got tired of the same-old, same-old plants I found at the nurseries - I was pleasantly surprised to see it wasn't hard (seeds want to grow!) AND it was fun. Really! There's something wonderfully life-affirming when watching new life sprout from seeds in your care.
I want to encourage you to grow at least some of your food - or flowers - from seed. I think you'll get the same thrill I do when I look at something I grew all the way from a tiny little seed to it's end result! And it's a wonderful thing to share with kids, too.
In order to make it as easy as possible, I've created this Seed Starting Basics page that will help you along your journey from seed-to-table, including why to grow your plants from seeds, where to find seeds, detailed seed-starting tutorials, and how to get your baby seedlings ready for the outdoors- all easily and within a budget. Let's start some seeds!
Why to Start Plants from Seeds
1. Not sold on starting your plants from seeds? I’ve listed my top 4 reasons it’s a good idea to start your vegetables from seed here. Or at least some of them. I don’t pressure myself to start every last thing from seed – especially when I want only one plant (like tomatillos). But the most important reason for me?
To have the vegetable varieties I want ready to be planted when I’m ready to plant- not just when & what the stores carry.
Where to Buy Seeds
2. Wondering where to buy seeds? If you have a reputable store that sells good quality seeds, you can buy there, but catalogs are where you'll find the most varietal selection and they provide TONS of information about the different varieties, growing conditions needed, harvesting tips, and a lot more. I'd suggest you get a few catalogs just for the information!
See my favorite catalogs and vegetable varieties here where you'll find links to their websites and some of the vegetable varieties I like to order.
3. Here's how to start your seeds indoors – all the steps you need using only basic, inexpensive equipment.
In this tutorial, each step is pictured to take any mystery out of it, as well as showing the equipment you need to have. A simple shop light is all you need to grow plants - using an overhead light source produces stockier plants than a window, but if all you've got is a window it does work, too.
4. Worried about follow-up care? Here are three posts that show you how to treat your baby seedlings at every stage:
- Caring for the seedlings after one week
- Caring for the seedlings after six weeks - including “hardening them off” to prepare them for outdoor life.
- Planting the seedlings in the garden- using lots of pictures, you'll see how to prepare your beds and plant the different seedlings you've grown, along with information on spacing and covering, if needed.
What About Leftover Seeds?
I store seeds in a lidded file box using the method described inside the seed-starting tutorial. Most seeds regularly last two to up to five years stored properly. If you have old seed you’re wondering about, the Oregon State University extension site has some good information on how to test seed for germination:
- Place 10 seeds an even distance apart on a damp paper towel. Roll up the towel and place in a plastic bag.
- Leave the damp, rolled towel in a warm spot in the kitchen for two to five days. The location’s lighting doesn’t matter.
- After the two-to-five days, check the paper towel to see which seeds have germinated.
Finally, here are some other tips for starting plants from seed:
- 10 seed-starting tips from Fine Gardening
- Seed-starting How-To from Organic Gardening
- Starting plants from seeds by the University of Minnesota Extension
Looking for more gardening information?