Melinda's Gardening How To: Starting Plants from Seed - Pasquesi Home and Gardens

Melinda’s Gardening How To: Starting Plants from Seed

The long winter may have you anxious to get growing. Warm up your green thumb by starting a few of your garden plants indoors. Select long season varieties like tomatoes and peppers that need to go into the garden as transplant so they have sufficient time to reach maturity and produce before the first fall frost. Or speed up bloom time by starting annuals like zinnias and marigolds indoors so they flower sooner in your garden. And then there are the hard-to-find flowers, herbs, and vegetables that are usually only available as seeds. Best of all starting plants from seeds it is easier than you think. Plus it helps pass the time while waiting for the spring garden season to begin. 


Here are a few tips to help you get started:

Start with an Inventory

  • Find, count and record all the seeds you saved from last year. Most seeds if stored properly, in a consistently cool dark location, will remain viable for several years.
  • Make a list of additional seeds you want to purchase for this growing season.
  • Check your seed starting supplies. You’ll need:
    • Sterile potting or seed starting mix
    • Clean flats, cell packs, peat or cow pots, or other small containers
      • OR compressed peat pellets that contain all you need for starting seeds.
    • Tray to capture excess water and protect the surface below the containers
    • Fertilizer labeled for use on seedlings
    • Plant tags and permanent marker
    • Artificial lights are optional but will help increase success
      • Use alone or to supplement light from a sunny window

Test Saved Seeds – When in doubt, test the seeds to see if they will still sprout.

  • Gather 10 seeds from the seed packet
  • Wrap in a damp paper towel and place in a plastic bag
  • Store in a warm location
  • Check the seeds in about a week
    • Remove the seeds from the bag
    • Open the paper towel and see what sprouted
  • If all the seeds sprout – plant according to the seed packet
    • If only half the seeds sprout, plant twice as close as recommended
    • If none of the seeds sprout, use them to create seed art or add to the compost pile


Create a Seed Starting Calendar

  • Make a final list of all the seeds you plan on starting indoors
  • Check the back of the seed packet for the recommended planting date
  • Mark these dates with the plant name on your calendar or make a chronological list of start times for plants you are growing.
    • Consider organizing your seeds in chronological order by planting date
      • Store in a plastic container

Planting and Care Indoors

  • Check the back of each seed packet for specific directions on planting time (based on last spring frost) & depth for the variety of plant you are growing.
  • Average last spring frost here is late April, but it can vary greatly from year to year – Add at least two weeks (mid May) just to be safe
  • Fill clean containers with sterile seed starter or a well-drained potting mix.
  • Always clean containers you are reusing from past seasons. Use a mix of one part bleach in 9 parts water. Allow them to soak for ten minutes then rinse with clear water
  • When using peat pellets, soak the pellet in warm water and watch it expand, then plant.
  • Plant two seeds in each container OR create rows OR scatter seeds throughout a flat or other shallow container
  • Moisten the soil and water often enough to keep the planting mix moist
  • Cover with plastic to keep soil moist and reduce watering frequency
  • Once planted, place containers in a warm location to speed seed germination
  • Or place on a heating mat designed for this purpose.
  • Move to a sunny location or under artificial lights as soon as the seeds sprout.
  • Remove the plastic cover
  • Regularly rotate plants growing in sunny window for even growth.
  • Adjust artificial lights as plants grow, keeping them 4 to 6 inches above the top of the seedlings.
  • Once seedlings develop two sets of true leaves (these look like the leaves of the plants you are growing) it is time to do some thinning or transplanting.
  • Leave one strong seedling in each individual container. Avoid damage to the remaining seedling by cutting the weakest seedling off at ground level.
  • Move strong healthy seedlings from flats to their own individual pots. Use a fork or other small utensil to carefully lift the plant out of the flat and into its own container.
  • Once seedlings have been thinned, established after transplanting and are actively growing, use a dilute solution of flowering plant fertilizer according to label directions.
  • Water thoroughly and often enough to keep the potting mix slightly moist.

Planting Outdoors

  1. Harden off transplants before moving outdoors.
  1. Move plants outdoors to a sheltered and shaded location after the danger of frost has passed.
  2. Stop fertilizing and allow soil to dry slightly before watering.
  3. Move plants so they receive an hour more of sunlight each day.
  4. Cover plants or move them indoors when frost is in the forecast
  1. Move transplants into their permanent location in a week or two – check seed packet directions for spacing and desired growing conditions
  1. Water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil around the plant roots slightly moist. Gradually increase the time between watering once plants are established.


Written by gardening expert, Melinda Myers. Melinda Myers is a nationally recognized gardening expert with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She is a wealth of knowledge and we are pleased to share Melinda’s Gardening How-To with you!


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