A Step by Step Approach to Starting Seedlings Inside

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Step 1: Gather all of your seed-starting materials



Cell trays or seed starting pots



Plant distinguishing characteristics


Starter seed mixture (homemade or store-bought)


Humidity dome for seed tray (often called a 1020 plant tray or propagation tray, or use any DIY drainage tray with plastic wrap)


Water-filled spray bottle or squirt bottle



You’re all prepared if you’ve already constructed your recycled newspaper pots. Make sure any other seed starting pots or cell trays you use are clean.

You may also recycle everyday things such as egg cartons, Dixie cups, and yogurt cups as seed starting containers. Simply wash them out and use a nail or an awl to make a few drainage holes in the bottom.

Step 2: Fill your seed beginning pots or trays with seed beginning mix

Fill a big tub or bucket halfway with seed starting mix, then add a good amount of water and stir with your hands or a shovel.

Add extra water as needed as the seed starting mix absorbs moisture. (This will take some time because peat-based seed starting mixtures soak slowly.) You want the mix to be consistently moist, like wet sand.

Fill seedling pots halfway with this moistened seed starting mix.

Step 3: Plant the seeds

Place two to four seeds on the surface of the seed starting mix and gently press them down so they are properly snuggled in.

You can keep your seeds exposed if they are quite little, such as basil or mustard.

Cover your seeds with a layer of vermiculite or seed starting mix equal to their height, generally 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch, if they are bigger (like beans or peas) or require darkness to sprout (see the instructions on the seed packs).

Step 4: Make a label for your newly planted seeds

Each pot should be labeled. Because most seedlings appear the same at birth, you will never recall what you planted there.

At this point, inexpensive plastic plant markers work well and keep out of the way, so keep your large and gorgeous metal plant markers for the garden.

Step 5: Maintain a moist and warm environment for your seedlings

Assemble your pots in a seed tray (or use a disposable aluminum roasting pan, a baking pan, or even the plastic container that comes with your salad greens) and cover with a temperatures dome.

If your dome has vents, keep them open to aid with air circulation throughout the sprouting stage.

Heat must now be added. Because sunlight is not required at this stage, your seed trays can be put in the warmest part of your home, such as an attic, bathroom, laundry room, or kitchen.

Low humidity can keep your seedling pots happy until they sprout if you keep them covered in a warm corner. They will be depressed due to the high humidity. Only add extra water if the mixture seems dry to the touch.

The seeds will germinate between a few days to a few weeks. Some of your seedlings will seem like they’re wearing small seed hats when they emerge.

Germination (the process of a seed sprouting) is quite varied, so don’t be concerned if it seems to take forever. In most situations, seeds germinate in three weeks or less (after that, try starting a new round of seeds).

Step 6: Light your fresh seedlings

The newly germinated plants require light at this time. Remove the humidity dome or plastic wrap from the seedlings and place them in the sunniest position in your home (preferably a south-facing window).

Continue to keep the mixture moist but not wet. Water seedlings once a day or every other day, depending on how much light and heat they receive.

Remember that seedling roots are near to the surface and grow in a tiny amount of medium, so they don’t require a deep soak like bigger plants.

I like spray bottles or squirt bottles since the moderate streams of water will not move seeds or harm seedlings.


Step 7: It’s time to move! When the strongest seedlings are ready, transplant them

Your seedlings are ready to be transferred once they have developed their first “true set” of leaves.

If more than one seed grew, select the strongest one and pinch or snip off the others. You can even preserve all of them, but if the seedlings are close together, be careful when separating the roots.

Plant the seedling in a bigger container with potting soil. Hold it by the cotyledons (the first leaves to develop) and be gentle with the little roots.

At this point, sprinkle the potting mix lightly with a diluted solution of compost tea or all-purpose fertilizer. Keep it simple, organic, and don’t get too caught up on the nutrients.

To avoid the “leggy” look, give the seedling enough of sunshine each day (at least 12 to 16 hours is optimum for most vegetable seedlings). (If you have leggy seedlings, learn how to correct them.)

Step 8: Harden those seeds off

You may start hardening off the seedling11 by taking it outdoors under diffused light for a few hours and bringing it back inside each night to make it ready for a healthy life outside.

Over the next week, gradually transition it from diffused sun to partial sun to full sun, and for longer periods of time, until it can be left outside all night.

Step 9: Move your seedlings outside

Following the hardening off time, you may transfer your seedling to its eventual destination, whether that is directly into your garden or into a larger container.

Then, in a few months, you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your effort!

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Gardeln is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com