Seed-starting containers should be clean, measure at least 2-3 inches deep and have drainage holes. They can be plastic pots, cell packs, peat pots, plastic flats, yogurt cups, even eggshells. As long as they are clean (soak in a 9 parts water to one part household bleach for 10 minutes), the options are endless. You can also buy seed-starting kits, but don’t invest a lot of money until you’re sure you’ll be starting seeds every year. If you start seeds in very small containers or plastic flats, you’ll need to transplant seedlings into slightly larger pots once they have their first set of true leaves. Keep in mind that flats and pots take up room, so make sure you have enough sunny space for all the seedlings you start.
3. Plant at the proper depth.
You’ll find the proper planting depth on the seed packet. The general rule of thumb is to cover seeds with soil equal to three times their thickness – but be sure to read the seed packet planting instructions carefully. Some seeds, including certain lettuces and snapdragons, need light to germinate and should rest on the soil surface but still be in good contact with moist soil. Gentle tamping after sowing will help. After planting your seeds, use a spray bottle to wet the soil again.
Here are the basics in 10 steps.
Maybe you want grow plants from seeds to save money. It’s definitely cheaper than buying transplants. It will also be easier to find seeds of varieties not typically available for sale as transplants. Whatever the reason, starting plants from seeds is probably not a hard as you think. And growing plants all the way from seed to maturity is one of gardening’s most rewarding endeavors.
9. Circulate the air.
Circulating air helps prevents disease and encourages the development of strong stems. Run a gentle fan near seedlings to create air movement. Keep the fan a distance away from the seedlings to avoid blasting them directly.
Planting seeds in pots can be a great way to start a houseplant or indoor garden, or otherwise start seeds that you may later transplant into your garden. Starting seeds in pots does not need to be difficult, but it does require some planning and attention to ensure successful propagation of your new plant. Be sure to start the seeds carefully in a soil matrix meant for seedlings, and keep your new plants in sunny areas with proper exposure to heat and water.
This article was co-authored by Andrew Carberry, MPH. Andrew Carberry has been working in food systems since 2008. He has a Masters in Public Health Nutrition and Public Health Planning and Administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
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Planting a seed in a pot is a great way to start both indoor and outdoor plants. To get started, you’ll need a seed starting tray or a large pot with drainage holes. Fill your starting tray or pot with a soil designed for starting seeds, dampen the soil, and plant your seeds in it. Follow the instructions on your seed packet for how deep and far apart your seeds should be. After you plant your seeds, keep them somewhere warm where they’ll receive plenty of sunlight. Water the soil whenever it starts to dry and turn the tray or pot 90 degrees every day to help your seeds grow. For more tips from our Gardening co-author, including how to fertilize your seeds, read on!
Even though the planting instructions on the packet might vary, you'll need the same supplies to start any seeds indoors. Here's what you'll need:
Test Garden Tip: Look on the seed package label to find the number of weeks you're supposed to start seeds indoors before the average last frost date. It usually takes about six to eight weeks to give your seedlings a head start on spring, so count backward from your area's frost date to figure out when you should start your seeds indoors.
These cheery flowers come in delicate pastel shades as well as vibrant orange, yellow, and pink.
How to Start Seeds Indoors
Label your pots so you know what's growing in them. Loosely cover the pots with clear plastic wrap, which helps maintain humidity and warmth.
Seed flats ($6, The Home Depot) are super easy for planting indoors. But you can dig through your recycling bin, too. Just remember to punch a drainage hole in each container before planting. Cardboard egg cartons work well, but you can also repurpose cut-down milk jugs, yogurt cups, and disposable pans. You can also make your own seed starter pots from materials like newspaper and paper mache.
If it's your first time starting seeds indoors in winter, it's best to go small. Pick just one or two types that are easy to grow from seed like these favorite annuals:
Who doesn’t love sunflowers? Bonus: Birds and bees are drawn to them, too.