A few years ago, Travis insisted on buying a grow light so that he could start flowers from seed for our backyard. I admit that initially I thought he was a bit crazy to want to try this, and it took me a while to get on board. Fast forward to today and we have continued to start flowers from seed each Spring, as well as vegetables, herbs, etc. for our garden!
Each season we’ve tweaked and adjusted our process based on what we have learned. After all, gardening is one big experiment! If you are interested in starting your own flowers or garden vegetables from seed, I want to share with you our current process based on some trial and error. Let’s dive in!
- Collect Your Supplies:
- Grow light: there are so many of these out there! If you have a small space and want to start just a few things consider a smaller option like this (I also love that it looks easy to adjust the height of the lights!). If you want a larger set up, here is the light that we have enjoyed using the most. It’s definitely an investment, so be sure to think about how often you will use it.
- Seed starting trays: over the past few years we have collected a bunch of the black plastic seed starting trays, similar to this. These can be washed out and reused each year!
- Table or other flat surface: make sure to set everything up in a relatively warm area, where your seedlings will grow without being bothered by any pets! Our cat loves to chew on all of our plants, so we usually use a room where we can close the door to keep him out!
- Seed starting potting soil: I usually use this Miracle Grow Seed Starting Potting Soil from Home Depot. But there are plenty of other options!
- Seeds to start: we have purchased seeds from multiple places including Home Depot, Southern States, Burpee, Etsy, etc. Make sure to consider the zone that you live in when buying seeds online.
- Larger trays/pots: Once your seedlings start to take off and outgrow their tiny tray, you will want to have something slightly larger to repot them in! We have collected some larger plastic containers from the nursery, and those tend to work well.
- Watering Can/Watering Wand: Once you get your seeds planted, you will want to gently water them in (more on this later!). I have been using our watering wand since the flow can be adjusted to be very soft! After starting with the watering wand I typically either use a watering can OR you can water them from the bottom (if your tray has drainage holes).
- Setting up Grow Lights
- Adjust the Height: This is very important if you want your seedlings to develop hardy and supportive stems! When they are just sprouting, we adjust the grow light to be closer to the tray, and gradually move it up and farther away from the seedlings as they grow.
- Smart Plug/Timer for Automation: This is a HUGE help! We have a smart plug set up, but some grow lights also run on timers. We typically leave our lights on from 6am-8 or 9pm (around 14 hrs. per day). The general guideline is 12-16 hours per day.
- Determine When To Start Seeds Indoors & When To Transplant
- Use Farmer’s Almanac Planting Calendar: this is a great resource to quickly see when you should be starting seeds, transplanting seedlings, etc. Search using your zip code and then find the type of plant you are starting to grow!
- Keep a log of planting/transplanting dates: as you are researching when to start your seedlings and when to transplant them out into your garden, be sure to write everything down!
- Planting Seeds in Trays
- Read guidelines for planting on back of packets: generally you can find all of the information you need on the back of the seed packet! If all else fails, a quick Google search should do it.
- Label: Such an important step! Especially if you are starting multiple types of plants you will want to be sure to label each of them. If you don’t want to buy plant markers/labels, there are a ton of easy ways to reuse household items as labels!
- Water in gently: Water flow is important! By gently watering your seeds you won’t disrupt them too much after planting them in the soil. We generally water from the top the first time, after that you can water from the bottom or top. Just be mindful not to overwater as this can lead to fungus, mildew, mold, etc.
- Consider using a heating pad: if you are planning to start your seeds in a garage, shed or other space that will be relatively cold you may want to look into using a heating pad under the trays. This is something that we will be trying out this year (be sure to follow me on Instagram for updates)!
- Watering: There is a fine balance between over watering, under watering and watering just the right amount. I tend to water our seedlings when soil looks like it is just starting to dry out (for me this tends to be 2-3 times per week).
- Thinning out seedlings: When seedlings start to emerge you want to thin them out by pulling some up so that they do not crowd one another. Generally guidelines for this can be found on your seed packets.
- Potting Up: As your seedlings grow larger you may eventually need to repot them in larger containers to give them more space. When you do this, you do not need to use seed starting potting soil, but can go ahead and plant them in your regular potting/garden soil. If you would like to add a bit of starter fertilizer at this point, go for it!
- Hardening Off & Transplanting
- Hardening Off: Once your seedlings have grown to be big enough (roughly the size of a transplant that you would buy from a store), you are going to want to harden them off! This just means to gradually acclimate them to the weather, instead of shocking them by placing them directly outside. Take about a week or two and leave your plants outside during the day, and bring them in at night (especially if the weather is much cooler). Be mindful of direct sunlight and try to place them in a spot where they are a bit more shaded at first.
- Transplanting: Yay!! Your seedlings have had plenty of time to get acclimated to the weather and grow nice and strong. You are ready to transplant them out into your garden! Be sure to continue watering regularly, and invest in good quality garden soil (I also like to add a bit of fertilizer occasionally).
What seeds are you planning to start this Spring? Leave me a comment below! As always, if you liked this post please be sure to share it with others. Happy gardening!