Basics of Starting Seeds


When all the seed catalogs start arriving, I feel like a little kid with a toy advertisement- I just sit there and circle away. I realize that there is no way that I would be able to fit everything in my yard, much less take care of it all; but it is so fun to look at all the new varieties and plan the garden. However, I can try many varieties at a good price if I start some of my plants from seed.

For example, I really wanted some Sweet William for my flower bed this year. A landscaper’s flat of 18 would cost me around $10. A packet of seeds usually is less than $2.


I planted this flat and easily have enough seeds to sow 2 more like this from just one packet of seeds. By the time that it is warm enough to plant them in the ground, they should have their second set of true leaves.

If Sweet William was the only type of flower that I wanted for this year, I probably would’ve just paid the 10 bucks for someone else to grow them for me.

However, I also wanted 27 marigolds (at least!), zinnias, blanket flower, sunflowers, petunias, salvia, milkweed (for the butterflies), black-eyed Susans, dill, basil, cilantro, chives, 8 types of tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants, and more!

Some of the varieties I wanted I haven’t seen offered as plants; I’d have to start them myself anyway. Why pay someone else to start them for me when I love planting and am suffering from spring fever anyway?

I was able to plant all of these seeds for a small fraction of the cost of buying plants. Starting these seeds also helped me get my “gardening fix” when I couldn’t really do anything else outside.

Many seeds are easy to start, and now is a good time to start vegetable and flower seeds for this year.


All you need are some pots or flats filled with seed-starting mix, seeds, a spray bottle of water, a stick for making planting holes, and plant labels (see how to make some here). For bottom-watering, you will also need a container large enough for the pots or flats.

Fill the pots with the seed-starting mix.


I often use my own compost, but I have to know what the seedlings look like because sometimes there are weed seeds or even tomato seeds that have survived the composting process.  If you use regular soil from your garden, you will have the weed possibility and perhaps drainage issues too.

Wet the seed-starting mix completely either by using your spray bottle or by setting the pots in the container filled with a few inches of water.


The container doesn’t have to be pretty, just able to hold water. 🙂

Then make a little hole for the seed.You can use a bamboo skewer like the one pictured, or you can use a twig, pencil or even just use your finger. Generally,  you should have shallow holes for little seeds, deeper holes for large seeds like sunflowers and beans. I usually put the seed in a hole twice as deep as it is wide. I sprinkle teeny-tiny seeds (like petunia seeds) on top of the soil.

Label your pots with the name of the plant and the date sowed.


Cover gently and spray the surface until it is completely wet. Be sure to not let the seeds dry out once they have been planted.

I like using a spray bottle for light watering before the seeds sprout. Once the seeds have germinated, it is better to water from the bottom.

To water them from the bottom, place them in a container filled with a few inches of water. The water will be absorbed and will move up to saturate the soil. Be sure that you remove them after a minute so they don’t drown.


Soon you will have plenty of seedlings and probably will have seeds left over for next year!

I usually transplant my little plants  when their roots begin to show out of the bottom or when they have their second set of true leaves.

March is a great month to start flowers and vegetables and to really get ready for spring. My March To-Do List will be posted soon.

It’s pretty cold out there (for Florida), maybe a Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cranberry Walnut cookie would help. 🙂

Stay warm and protect your little seedlings!

Note: For an update on the Sweet William seedlings, including pictures, click here.


10 responses »

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