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Indoor Seed Starting for a Beautiful Garden

Indoor seed starting for a Beautiful Garden. Easy for beginner gardeners. Starting plants from seeds indoors is an inexpensive way to get tons of gorgeous plants for your vegetable and flower garden.

How to start seeds indoors is a fast and easy way to get tons of flower or vegetables plants for less money than buying at a nursery or garden center. You can fill your garden on a budget and have to satisfaction of growing varieties you just can’t find elsewhere!

Pink and fuchsia Cosmos flowers with text overlay, Seed Starting for Beginners, Flower Patch Farmhouse

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Why Start from Seeds?

I especially love heirloom types of flowers that are hardy, easy to grow and unusual.  Ones you can’t normally get in your local garden center. So I need to start my own seeds.

There are tons of ways to do this and I have tried a good many of them.  So I am going to let you know what has been the most successful for me in getting really strong seedlings that grow into gorgeous sturdy flowers or veggie plants.

Indoor seed starting rack

The rack.

How to Start Seeds for a Beautiful Garden

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I will tell you about the fan later.. I have had this planting rack in my dining room, living room, upstairs spare bedroom and in the greenhouse, wherever the mood strikes me.  This rack is awesomely easy to move where I want it.

I got this one at Costco…I think they are about $90 now, they were $75 back when I purchased mine about 10 years ago.  They last forever. (watch for sales at Costco, my hubby just picked this up at Costco for under $70)

List of items you will need for indoor seed starting:

1. A rack or shelf of some sort to hang grow lights above your pots
2. Decorative rope lights for bottom heat (not absolutely necessary but helpful) or plant heat mat.
3. sterile containers for planting in (I like re-purposing containers but these are great too)
4. shop lights with Ott or Grow light bulbs (if you use regular florescent bulbs get both cool and warm ones so your plants get the broad spectrum of light) or if you want to spend some $$$ get some LED gro lights.
5. sterile seed starting mix (I have also used finely screen compost that has been sterilized mixed with perlite but that is an entirely whole post in itself so stick with the easy route and buy seed starting mix) or good potting soil. Sterilize yourself by pouring boiling water through the potting soil before using.
6. chick grit (available at feed stores or online), horticultural sand or vermiculite available at garden centers or big box stores.
7. plant trays for your containers to sit in for bottom watering (mine have the clear lids for keeping the moisture in but I will tell you a trick to use if you don’t have those)
8. small fan
9. Perlite


Most folks say to start seeds in their own little pots, whether they be the little peat pots, the little squished tabs that balloon up when you add water or the plastic six pack containers, the theory being you won’t have to disturb their roots when transplanting.

After trying those methods I found I have better success when I plant many seeds in the same container and let them grow up together for awhile.

The glorious container I have had the best success rate with is the lowly plastic tub (I recycled some we had but I also like the ones I linked to below from Amazon)

Lately I have been using Spring Mix salad containers, easy to pierce holes in and they have a lid to create a mini greenhouse effect.

If they are used make sure to clean and sanitize them with a 10% bleach solution to kill chances of fungus or other bad germs getting to your precious little seedlings.

How to Start Seeds for a Beautiful Garden

I poke holes all along the bottom of the tubs with a drill.  I stack several together upside down, so I can drill the holes in many tubs at the same time. Or I burn holes with a skewer. Stinky but effective. Don’t worry, I do this in a well ventilated area and I don’t breathe in the fumes. 

Label your Seed Containers

I write the name of what I am planting on the side of the tub, trust me you will forget if you do a lot of them.  I just use a Sharpie.

Keep a garden journal and list what you have planted and what container they are in.  I map it by keeping track of where the containers are on the plant rack.

Seed Starting Soil Mix

I add an inch or so of perlite to the bottom of the tub for good drainage. (optional)

Then I add my seed starting medium…a nice loose mix..about an inch or so is good. (recently I have been using Cactus mix for this and it works great)

I use warm water to moisten it all very well.  (some seed starting mixes are so powdery I have to soak them with the warm water for a couple hours)

Related: Seeds Starting Mix vs Potting Soil, an experiment

How to Start Seeds for a Beautiful Garden


I generously add my seeds.  Finer seeds I just scatter on the top and press into the soil. Read the instructions on your seed packet for each type seed and follow them.

Make sure your hands are clean, free of lotions, creams or oils, anything like that can affect your germination. 

Larger seeds I space apart about an inch and press into the soil a little deeper, I don’t necessarily bury them, just press them in firmly.

Next I add a thin layer of chick grit to cover the seeds. The amount you add depends on the seeds, that is where you read the packet instructions again. (You can also use horticultural sand, in the video I am using sand)

How to Start Seeds for a Beautiful Garden

Why add the grit or sand when starting seeds?

Chick grit is said to discourage damping off, a fungus attack on your baby plants that can and will kill them off en masse.  Chick grit is crushed granite and works great for me. The sand has the same effect and also discourages fungus gnats. The sand or grit also retards evaporation which keeps the soil moist.  Vermiculite is also an option.

Related: Get Rid of Fungus Gnats Safely

Watering in your seeds

Very gently moisten the chick grit by either spraying it with warm water or super carefully watering from the top. I have a cheap little spray bottle from Wal-Mart from the dollar bin.  The well moistened medium beneath should already be wet enough for the grit to get wet with the tiniest help.

Cover with a clear plastic lid.  I have the trays with the lids but you can also just place another tub on top of the planting tub to create a mini greenhouse, I have done that too, just be sure to have something underneath the tub to catch the water, you can use another tub for that as well.  One that is not perforated, of course.  You can also use clear plastic wrap.

From now on you should only water from the bottom. With the clear plastic on top you should not need to water that much before the seeds germinate. (you can spritz with a spray bottle instead if you wish)

My Metal Shelf Set Up

I hang the shop lights from chains (come with the light most of the time) and attach them to the racks with S hooks.

I have the light you can see in the front and one behind it to bathe the entire area of the plant trays filled with the planted plastic containers. (some only use one light fixture per shelf.

Your lights should be as close to the seedling pots as possible, you will raise the light as the plants grow.

How to Start Seeds for a Beautiful Garden

You can also see the green rope light snaking along under the trays.   I lay it out in an S pattern along the rack, you can’t really see that but trust me.  This adds a bit of bottom heat to help with germination. If the room or environment you are starting your seeds in is already warm you won’t really need this. (My lights died on me, I use heat these mats instead)

Keep a close eye on your pots, lift the lid of the trays to let air in from time to time.  Air circulation is a must.  Before you know it you will see this…

What a thrill that is!

When you see them sprouting remove the lid and you no longer need the bottom heat.

You may have seeds that have different germination time frames so when you seed, keep plants that have the same germination time frame together.  When they sprout you can uncover the tray.

In the photo below you see the trays in the back still covered and the planted pots in front outside of the trays.

How to Start Seeds for a Beautiful Garden

Why a Fan?

Now for the fan in the first photo, that is to provide air circulation and a bit of stimulation for the plants.  The movement of the air causes the plants produce an enzyme that makes for strong and sturdy stems instead of the leggy weak ones.

You can also gently run your hand over the seedlings to provide that movement but it should be done throughout the day, everyday.

How to Start Seeds for a Beautiful Garden

The moving air can cause the soil to dry out faster so keep a close eye on that. 

Plant up your started seeds

When the plants get bigger, when they get their true leaves, it is time to transplant.  I let them get larger in their original growing pots before I have transplanted them, I find it easier then.

I do start watering them with worm casting fertilizer when they get their true leaves so they get the nutrients they need but I don’t have to transplant them right away.

These tomato plants are way past the “when they get their true leaves” stage.

How to Start Seeds for a Beautiful Garden

This is where having that very loose planting medium comes in handy.  You can separate each individual tomato plant (or whatever you have growing) even though the roots are most likely intertwined by now. You just gently pull the roots apart, by now the stems and roots are very strong and can take it.

Handle them by the leaves and not the stems to prevent damage that may kill your seedling.

(some plants are not good candidate for starting in pots ie: cucumbers, melons, squash, you can do it but 9 times out of ten you are better off just starting them in the ground when it is warm enough or make a hot bed) click here to go to the HOT BED POST

Before you know it your seedlings have jumped up and are ready for hardening off.

How to Start Seeds for a Beautiful Garden

That is the tough part for me, I get impatient but I will share how I do it in another post soon.

You will be popular with your friends.  If you are like me and plant way more than you need you will end up with more than enough to share. Or sell your extras for some extra $$

How to Start Seeds for a Beautiful Garden

Happy Planting and I wish you garden success!

More posts you will enjoy!

Winter Sowing
Flowers that Reseed themselves
Seeds to Plant in Fall
How to Start Roses from Cuttings


Happy Gardening!

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