Starting seeds indoors

Photo by Cheryl DeWolfe

Photo by Cheryl DeWolfe

First, you’ll want to get your supplies together:

  • Seeds
  • Seed pan or cell packs with drain holes
  • Large mixing container (e.g., a pail)
  • Seed starter mix or peat moss-based (soil-less) potting mix
  • Vermiculite
  • Spray bottle
  • Plastic wrap
  • Fluorescent lights
  • Water
  • Reflecting material (e.g., white cards, mirrors, or cardboard covered in aluminum foil)

Plus, you’ll want:

  • A warm place in your house (for germination)
  • Sunlighted area in your house (after sprouting)

When to plant? You’ll want to plant seeds according to when they’ll be planted outdoors, so we suggest consulting a seed-starting chart.

Now, what to plant. Not all plants do well started indoors. Again, pay attention to how far in advance you’ll want to start them — some plants want to go into the ground before the last frost and some after.

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Leek
  • Lettuce
  • Okra
  • Onion
  • Pepper
  • Tomato


  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Lemon Balm
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Thyme


  • Ageratum
  • Dahlia
  • Marigold
  • Nicotiana
  • Petunia
  • Snapdragon
  • Zinnia

Now, for the simple steps.

  1. In your large container, add enough water to dampen the soil mix you’ll use today.
  2. Fill your seed pan or cell packs with soil, leaving half an inch from the rim. Don’t pack the soil tightly.
  3. Plant your seeds. You can sprinkle tiny seeds on the surface. Space seeds about half an inch apart, and use just a few seeds per cell (you’ll later snip off all but one seedling per cell).
  4. Spread a thin layer of vermiculite over the soil surface.
  5. Spritz the soil surface with water. Soil should be damp, not soggy.
  6. Cover your pan or cell pack with plastic wrap.
  7. Place the pan or cell pack in a bright location but not in direct sunlight. Keep temperature around 70 to 75 degrees. If your room is cooler, place pan or cell pack near the ceiling where warm air rises. The top of a refrigerator works well.
  8. Check every day for germination.
  9. When seeds sprout, remove the plastic and move into very bright direct light, either sunlight or fluorescent light. Use reflecting material to boost light.
  10. As your planting date nears, leave plants outdoors a few hours a day to acclimate to outdoor conditions.

That’s it! Be sure to let us know how you do.

For more information, please check the following sources.


Mother Earth News

Mother Earth News Seed-Starting Chart

Plant Propagation From Seed, Virginia Cooperative Extension Service

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