The Basics to Starting Seeds Indoors

Believe it or not, gardening time is right around the corner! That’s such an exciting thought to ponder after the past few weeks of bitter weather.

It always feels too early start seeds. There’s still snow on the ground, temperatures are brisk, and then it’s time to plant seeds…doesn’t seem quite right, but it is indeed time.

I started my indoor transplant seeds this past weekend, and now I am anticipating the coming spring. Before too long the trees will bloom, the ground will thaw, and the garden will begin to grow.

I felt lost the first time I started seeds indoors. What do I start? When to plant them? How do I take proper care of them? What do I start them in? I had so many questions, and I honestly felt even more overwhelmed after searching the internet for answers.

My goal for this post is to leave you with information that removes some of that feeling of overwhelm and supplies you with the basic information you need to start seeds indoors. Here’s everything you’ll need to start little seedlings indoors in preparation for spring planting. I’ve even given some extra tips and tricks too! So, let’s get to planting!

Before You Start

Research is vital to a successful garden. The whole process is based on the specific Hardiness Zone you live in. Find your zone here. Now you can base the rest of your garden planning off that information.

Why Start Seeds Indoors

There are a few main reasons that I prefer starting seeds indoors.

  1. Variety. You can find just about any seed variety on the internet, but nurseries are a bit limited in comparison. Nurseries have the main garden starts like tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, and some herbs, but what if you want to grow more than they offer? Starting from seed enables you to do just that.
  2. Time. I live in Missouri, so there are certain seeds that need more time to grow than outside temperatures allow. For example, if I planted tomatoes in April, after the last frost, they would peek in production very late in the growing season. By planting them indoors a few months earlier, I grant them plenty of time to get established before transplanting into the garden.
  3. Money. I can buy a packet of 25 tomato seeds for $2.50 and hopefully get 15 to 20 plants out of it. On the other hand, I can buy one tomato plant from a nursery for $3 to $5. I admit, it would be much easier to buy tomato starts that only need to be planted in the garden and watered, but my wallet hurts just thinking about the price difference. That’s $60 for 20 plants (at least) versus $2.50!

What to Start Indoors

Not every seed should be started indoors, so look to your seed packet to determine if it should be planted indoors or sown directly into the garden.

Here’s what I am starting indoors this year.

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Yarrow

Other vegetables such as cucumbers, melons, and some squash can be started indoors as well. I encourage you to research each seed to decide if indoor or outdoor sowing is best for your Hardiness Zone.

When to Plant Seeds Indoors

Know Your Frost Date

Frost dates vary from place to place, so knowing yours is vital to successful gardening. Please note, this information does not guarantee that a frost will not happen later than the anticipated date, but it is the best guide we have for garden planning.

The best way to determine your last frost date is either by consulting an almanac, calling your local farm bureau, or looking it up online. I used this source to determine mine. My last frost date here in Missouri is April 20th, so I base all of my garden plans around this date.

When to Plant

Knowing when to plant your indoor starts all depends on your frost date. For example, my packet of tomato seeds suggests that I start them 4-8 weeks before my last frost date. This means I will get my starts going at the end of February if I want them healthy and strong by April 20th.

Look to the back of your seed packet to determine how far in advance each indoor start should be planted. Count backwards from your last frost date and mark your calendar to remember when to plant.

Gather Supplies

  • Seeds
  • Soil
  • Containers
  • Heat
  • Water
  • Light

How to Start Seeds Indoors

  1. Prepare containers. Sterilize your seed starting trays or containers with soapy water. Allow to dry and wipe down with hydrogen peroxide.
  2. Read the seed packets. Each seed packet should contain all the information you need to start them indoors: how deep to plant the seeds, how far in advance to plant them, and more.
  3. Fill your tray or containers with soil. Fill each container about 3/4 of the way full.
  4. Plant the seeds. Remember to look to your seed packets for proper planting depth. If using a seed starting tray, plant one seed per cell.
  5. Label. You may think you’ll remember where you planted each seed variety, but believe me…you’ll forget! Label everything. You’ll thank yourself later.
  6. Water. A spray bottle is great for this because it makes the watering process gentle on the soil. Mist the soil with water.
  7. Cover. Some seed starting trays come with a plastic lid, but plastic wrap is also a great option.
  8. Maintenance. Water your 1-2 times per day for 7-10 days. Keep the soil moist until the seeds have germinated.

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