Starting Seeds

Starting seeds indoors is easier than most people think and can provide enjoyment for those of us living in harsher climates. It is also a great activity for kids and an educational way to talk about the food we eat and where it comes from. To start seedlings indoors, the only thing you really need are seeds, soil, light and water. Save items such as toilet paper rolls, plastic containers, etc and save money. We’ve recycled our seed starting containers throughout the years but we do also use the recyclables mentioned above when we run out of seed starting packs and trays.

Our set-up is quite simple here. The seeds follow the sun around the house and then go up on the stove at night. They are in the east windows in the morning, the southern windows in the afternoon, and then take turns on top of the stove where we have a small light. It is also quite warm up there usually from leftover cooking or baking heat but you have to remember to take the tray down if you use your oven or stove or you could melt the packs and kill the plants!

It is time-consuming to move the plants around, but we already have basil and will most likely have lettuce and onions before anyone else on the block. I’ve got plenty of time on my hands anyway and I may as well invest that time into our family’s food habits.  The seeds have to have a nice temperature. They need at least 68 degrees in the house to properly germinate. I am not a botanist, I’m just speaking from experience. You also want to make sure the seedlings get PLENTY of sun and depending on where you live, you may need to substitute a little artificial light. You don’t need anything real fancy, just make sure the light source is close to the seedlings or they may become spindly as they try to reach for the light source. If they become spindly, re-pot and add more soil.

Make sure you do not over-water. One way to tell is if the leaves turn a light green color. The way I do it is water the plant very little in the early stages and let them go until the soil is almost completely dry before watering them again. In the past, I have always worried about the watering and over-watered but it’s best to do less water and not more in the early stages in my opinion. Especially when they are indoors and they don’t have a light breeze blowing on them. If you do have a ceiling fan, run it every so often.

My parents have a more hardcore set-up:

As you can see, they have a homemade frame with adjustable lights hanging from it. They also have heating pads under the trays for optimal temperature conditions, a fancy sprayer and a fan. Does one need all this? You don’t need it, but it helps. My parents certainly have more success with their garden than I do with mine. Last year I could not get lupines to sprout from seed. As you can see from the middle picture here (if you can spot a lupine seedling that is), you can see that my dad had no problem sprouting lupines from seed! Some seeds are pickier than others.

Gardening is a learning experience. Each year I get more and more things to germinate as I learn more. If you always wanted to start seeds indoors, go ahead and give it a try using the basic techniques. Don’t be discouraged if not everything germinates right away or even at all. Learn from your mistakes but most of all, enjoy the benefits of growing your own food and impress your children when you pick that first red bell pepper or whatever it is you look forward to when it comes to fresh produce. I’m fairly confident that our success with feeding our children vegetables has a lot to do with the fact that they get to grow it. Last year, Andrew took so much pride in his sugar snap peas we probably should have had him plant twice as many seeds!

I plan on keeping track of our garden on this blog all summer long. You will be able to see what we grow, how we do it and what we harvest. Maybe even what we cook with it but that probably won’t be too exciting since a lot of it is just eaten raw. If you have any suggestions or questions, please feel free to ask! If I don’t know the answer I will try to find out for you and hopefully this blog will turn into a place we can all learn from.


  1. chiquita
    Posted March 14, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Wow – your parents have an awesome setup! Your basil and lettuce look great too, though.
    I’ve currently got green onions that I grew from leftover roots of some I got at a grocery store. Not from seeds, but they’re sprouting nicely.
    This coming week’s going to be sunny and warm (yay – 70s!)…sending you & your seedlings some Cali warmth 🙂

  2. Posted March 14, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Green onions from roots. . . wow I never thought of doing that. We go through one bunch a week. So I can just plant them? That would save me a lot of time!

  3. chiquita
    Posted March 15, 2010 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Just took a photo of my little pot of roots I planted about a week ago. You can see where I chopped off the roots (the white base) and all the green is new growth:

  4. Posted March 15, 2010 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    wow- gorgeous! I’m going to try that today!

  5. Posted March 14, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Nice! I just started some of my plants in the garden today. No where near as far along as yours are though

  6. Posted March 22, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    I bought some seeds on the 19th and planted them and tonight I saw some sprouts. I planted cilantro, sweet and purple basil, tomatoes, and peppers.

    I wonder if you could use the same idea that chiquita used for a sprouting garlic? I have an organic head of garlic that is sprouting right now.

  7. Posted March 22, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    I have tried that with garlic with no success. Could have been our lack of light though. We have a garlic festival if you can believe it here in our town and when I was there last fall they said the trick was to plant the bulb right after the first hard freeze. So you are supposed to plant it in the fall for spring sprout and following fall harvest. But let me know if you have luck!