Seed Starting

Welcome new gardeners!

Late winter and early spring is the time to start seeds indoors. Our last frost date is projected as May 1- May 15th. The last frost date is what you work from when planting your seeds indoors. Keep your eye on the weather and it will help you know when you can acclimate your seedlings and then transplant outdoors.

First let’s talk about some of our early sowing seeds, cold hardy vegetables like the brassicas family which includes cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage can be seeded in early to mid-March as well as lettuces. These cold-weather crops can be put outdoors earlier and do well in a cold frame or hoop houses as well for an earlier start.

Important seed packet info:

Best time to plant for our zone
How deep to plant the seeds
Days to germination gives an idea how long it takes the seed to sprout
Days to maturity = the number of days from planting to harvest
Seedling thinning & spacing directions
Check if it’s a perennial or annual to help determine where you are placing the plant

Examples of plants sowing times before transplanting outdoors:

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Cold Season Crops ( Early spring or late fall )

Broccoli 4-6 weeks
Brussels Sprouts 4-6 weeks
Cabbage 4-6 weeks
Cauliflower 4-6 weeks
Onion 10-12 weeks

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Warm Season Crops (Late spring through early fall)

Eggplant 8 weeks
Parsley 8-10 weeks
Pepper 8 weeks
Tomato 8-10 weeks



These crops are best when sowed directly into soil outside ( plant according to packages recommended soil temps and timing ).

Beets, beans, carrots, corn, kohlrabi, lettuce, radish, peas, potato, spinach, and swiss chard

What you need to grow your own plants – Water, Light, Growing Medium, and SEEDS!


Get to know the plants you are trying to grow!

Use your seed packet to guide you. Look for information such as:

-When to start the seeds, seeding depth, germination temperature, light and water             requirements, nutrient requirements, mature size and final plant spacing


Should you start the seeds indoors, or direct sow them in the garden or planter?

-Use the “date to maturity” as a guide.

– Some plants have sensitive roots and/or mature fast enough in our climate to be direct sown    ( ex. Sunflowers, Nasturtium, Beans, Radishes, Peas, Dill)

-Some plants have a LONG growing season and should be started indoors to reach maturity

( ex. Peppers, Tomatoes, Cole Crops, Lemongrass, Rosemary)

**Hardy perennials may require cold stratification or scarification for proper germination


What type of growing medium is best?

AVOID using soil from your yard/garden if possible! It is an easy way to introduce unwanted pest and disease problems. *Most at home compost piles do not get hot enough to kill harmful pathogens.

Some plants may require specific soil/drainage requirements.


Seed Starting Mix

-Fine textured, soiless medium

-Sometimes heat sterilized

-No nutrients, intended for germination only

Standard Potting Mix

-Easily sifted to achieve a fine texture for seed starting

-Available with or without added nutrients

Make your own!

-Many recipes online for DIY germination mix and potting mix


Materials you may need:

Plug Trays

– When choosing a size: How many plants do you want to grow? How big is the seed, and how             much room do the roots need?

-Provides a controled environment for proper germination


Soil Pellets

-Soak in water to expand the pellet

-Plant entire pellet into your pots or garden

-Plastic-free option


Open Flats

-With drainage holes: Fill with seeding mix and scatter seeds. Divide and up-pot/plant out

-Without drainage holes: Use under plug trays to catch water/soil


Humidity Dome

-Fits over most plug trays and open flats

-Short dome for seed starting

-Tall dome for cuttings

-Helps keep soil moist



-Use various sizes to start seeds if desired. Divide and up-pot/plant out

-Choose the RIGHT sized pot when up-potting! Too big and it may not dry out fast enough,             causing root rot. (Can up-pot again to a larger size if needed.)

-Plastic, Coco Coir, Biodegradable options


Watering Can/Spray Bottle

-Stream from watering can may be too harsh for seedlings


Heat Mat

-Most homes are not warm enough for proper germination

-Raises soil temp 10-20 degrees above room temperature

-Be careful when using in combination with dome and lights!


Lights & Timer

-Supplimental light is essential to growing happy seedlings indoors!

-Prevents weak, leggy plants

-Full Spectrum/Daylight. T8 & T5 Florescent, Standard Bulbs, LED

-Use a timer to make life easier! 14-16 hrs. of light per day


-A light breeze helps grow strong plants!


Caring for your seedlings.

Proper watering is essential.

-Allow tap water to sit out overnight to dechlorinate. Avoid using soft water.

-Keep soil evenly moist until germination

-Know your plant’s specific needs

-Find a routine and water early in the day.

-After germination, allow soil to dry slightly between watering. This encourages root growth!            (Avoid “loving your plants to death”, aka over watering)

-Bottom watering keeps foliage dry



-Seedlings do not need nutrients right away. Wait until they have a few sets of true leaves before feeding

-Know your plant’s specific needs

-Half strength, balanced fertilizer works well for most

-Granular soil amendments


Hardening Off

-Allows your plants time to adjust to light, temperature, and environmental changes

-Start in the shade on a calm day, for an hour or two. Slowly increase time outside and sun  exposure over several days


Here is a pdf version of instructions on seed starting indoors and some guidelines on when to start certain crops!

We carry grow lights, seed starting kits, seedling potting soil, fertilizer, and seeds. Later in the spring we will have vegetables and herbs that we have grown for you to purchase if you don’t get to starting your own seedlings.