Starting Seeds Indoors For Beginners

Featured Image, sprouts under a grow light.

Seed Starting For Beginners

You’ve got the springtime itch to start your garden indoors! You’re not alone. However, starting seeds indoors for beginners can feel a bit overwhelming. Questions like which seeds to plant, when to plant them, what to use for soil and how much to water them are all valid questions. Don’t give up because of overwhelm, we’re here to help!

Why Start Seeds?

Direct Sow vs. Transplant

The first thing to understand is the difference between plants that are direct sow compared to those that need to be transplanted. Direct sow means that they need to be planted outside directly into the ground or raised beds when the weather is appropriate for your area. Transplanting these direct sow plants later will likely not go well as the stress can be too much for them. It can be done, but usually not with high success rates.

Transplants simply means that they must first be grown from seed indoors before planted outside in a harsher environment. Usually once they’ve grown for a few weeks up to a couple months, they are ready to be transplanted outdoors in the garden.

As an added benefit, when you start your seeds indoors you are getting ahead of the growing season. Starting early means they will be mature and strong enough to be taken outdoors by the time growing season comes for your area.

Best Seeds to Start Indoors

Common Vegetable Seeds To Start Indoors
Sweet Potato
Brussel Sprouts
Check the back of each seed packet to know what growing zone you are in and when the best time of year is for starting indoors and transplanting. Bold vegetables can be grown indoors first but you must take extra care when transplanting. This is clearly not a comprehensive list but a list of more common vegetables.
Seedlings ready for transplanting.

Best Seed Starting Mix

It’s important to remember that seed starting mix is not soil, it’s exactly what it describes itself as- a mixture of a variety of ingredients that are meant to create an ideal environment for seed sprouting and growth. This mixture is light and fine compared to regular garden soil but will provide the right nutrients needed.

If you go to your local garden center and buy a bag of plant potting mix for your seed starting you could be disappointed in the results. While those can be beneficial for plants in later stages of growth, they are much heavier and more dense, creating an environment that can be detrimental to your seed’s new sprouts. It really depends on the type of seeds though- for example peppers, tomatoes and others tend to be a bit more resilient.

One last thing to consider is that you should be wary of mixes that claim to be natural or organic. Check and verify those claims before purchasing and using for your garden if organic gardening is important to you.

Those thoughts aside, you really have two basic options when choosing the best soil for seed starting:

  • Buy a pre-made seed starting mix from retailers (usually labeled “seed starting mix”, “seed starting potting mix”, seedling mix” etc.)
  • Make your own. There are countless “recipes” out there of DIY seed starting recipes. Here’s what’s worked for us:

3 Parts Screened Compost, 1 Part Perlite, 1 Part Vermiculite & 2 Parts Peat Moss

DIY Seed Starting Mix

All of those ingredients can be purchased from a garden center or can be purchased online. Making your own compost is worth learning how to do, is really easy and a basic skill of gardening and homesteading.

Seed Starting Trays

As for the the type of tray and liners to use for your seedlings, there are a variety of materials to choose from if you wanted to make something yourself. Examples would be newspaper, toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, egg cartons, egg shells, recycled yogurt containers etc.

Toilet paper and paper towel rolls.
Using recycled materials is a great way to save money for your garden or homestead, even when starting seeds.

If you wanted to purchase a set there are a variety of them nowadays to choose from, though they are definitely much more expensive than doing it yourself with products around the house. Look it up online or check your local garden center.

How To Plant Seeds In Trays

Once you’ve created or purchased your seedling mix, fill your mini planters and plant your seeds. Be sure to follow the instructions on the back of each seed packet. Once finished you can then cover them all with a layer of preferably glass (but covering seeds with plastic wrap can work too) to help speed the germination process. Once they start to sprout and you see a little bit of green, promptly remove the glass or plastic wrap.

Lighting For Your Seeds

Seedlings need constant light. Placing a tray by a sunny window will simply not be enough. Grow lights will be your best solution to make sure they are getting what they need. Be sure to purchase grow lights that imitate the light from the sun. The best ones will be described as “full spectrum” or “broad spectrum” lights. Most grow lights made these days are LEDs. Mount them to the top of a bookshelf, an upright shelf, whatever set up you’ve decided on for your seedling sprouts.

Sprouts growing under a grow light.
A good set of grow lights will help your sprouts to thrive.


You’ve planted your seeds and you’ve set up a light source for them. Now watering is pretty simple- all you need to do is keep them moist. Can you over water? Yes. Just water enough for them to keep the soil moist. They can dry out fairly quickly so just plant on checking on them minimum once a day, preferably morning and night. Usually within two weeks most seeds have sprouted.

When to Transplant?

Seedlings can stay in trays for a few weeks. Generally you should follow the instructions on the back of the seed packet to see when your seedlings are ready for transplant. Also be aware of your area and when your temperatures are friendly to these crops you’re growing. As another general rule, they say once a seedling has four leaves, it is ready for the outdoors.

Don’t Get Discouraged

Starting seeds indoors for beginners can take a bit more care, preparation and patience than other forms of gardening. If your first time at it isn’t successful, don’t give up! Try again and again until you can figure out all the quirks.

A thriving, healthy bundle of tomatoes growing on the vine.
Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying a thriving garden.

Happy Planting & Gardening Method(s) of Choice

Hope you enjoy this process! The excitement of planning the growing season each year is always contagious. Don’t forget to decide on a gardening method that will work best for your needs.

Also check out:

Preserving Eggs in Limewater

Should I Bring Home Baby Chicks This Year?

How To Grow Lentil Sprouts On Your Kitchen Counter

Thanks for stopping by, give us the gift of a like, share or comment. We’d love to hear from you!

Wishing you and your family all the best on your self reliance journey!

Best wishes,


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Herbs, Birds & the Bees

Garden, Chickens, Bees & Homestead


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