From Small Beginnings to Big Harvests: 8 Tips for Successful Seed Starting

From Small Beginnings to Big Harvests: 8 Tips for Successful Seed Starting

Some seeds are like old friends - you've been growing them for years and you know exactly how to get them to sprout and bloom into gorgeous plants. But then there are those pesky seeds that just won't cooperate, no matter what you do! It's enough to make you want to throw in the trowel and give up. 

Well, don't throw in the trowel just yet! Growing plants can be a fun and rewarding hobby, and with a little bit of guidance, you can turn those little seeds into beautiful blooms in no time.

I've got some tips that have helped me and can hopefully help you too.

  • Your last frost date isn’t always a safe planting guide. Some seeds require a cold period before they germinate. And many flowers have an extremely long growing season before they flower or will shut down when it gets hot outside. Those should be planted out way before your last frost date or even in the fall.  Know your seeds. Many of these hardy seeds are Perennials, Biannials, Hardy Annuals or can be referred to as “Cool Flowers”. Look up what you have - it may not always be listed on your seed packet.


  • Use sifted or fine soil mix for your seed starts to ensure the tiny seeds won’t get displaced and have a chance to sprout (Snapdragon seeds are easily displaced). Sterile soil is not necessarily especially if you plan on growing out the seedlings for a few weeks - they’ll need the nutrition from the soil. You may also chose to give them a boost through a fertilizer. Make sure that you read the directions carefully as little seedlings will require a different dilution than a full grown plant. I usually skip the fertilizer until the plants are in the ground.


  • Know how deep to plant your seeds. A general rule is to plant the seed at a depth twice the width of the seed, however some seeds must be surface sown.


  • Know the light requirements. Some seeds need total darkness to germinate while others require light. Seeds that require light to germinate must be surface sown and not covered.


  • Know the temperature requirements for the seeds. Some seeds need heat to germinate, others need a cold treatment and some are ok with room temps. You might want to use a different location to germinate different seeds. Our laundry room is warm and humid - perfect for those seeds that need a warm space. A basement or garage might work for seeds that need colder temperatures (like Sweet Peas!). And seeds that need a cold treatment can either be placed in the freezer for a few weeks or sown into the ground in the fall to overwinter (like Poppies and Larkspur).


  • Use a heat pad to help raise the temperature of the soil (damp soil will be cooler than ambient temperature). Remove the heat mat once the seeds have germinated. This is necessary only if you are trying to germinate seeds that need 70F+ temperatures and your set up is in a colder room.


  • Keep the soil moist but not wet. Avoid overhead watering or spraying as that might displace the seeds. The best way to water is by allowing the tray or pots to soak up water from a tray below. A clear dome, plastic wrap and a light sprinkle of vermiculate will help hold the moisture in the soil. Remove the cover once the seeds have germinated.


  • If you experience algae growth sprinkle a light dusting of Cinnamon. Make sure that you shake off or blow it off  from already emerged leaves and do not cover the seeds that need light to germinate. You can also simmer down 4 cups of water and 4 cinnamon sticks for about 20 minutes, let it cool, and use that to water your seedlings.

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