Seed starting 101: A seed sowing guide for beginners.

after seed sowing, seedlings have sprouted
Sprouted seedlings!

This is a detailed guide for beginners giving you all the information you will need on seed sowing in order to create success for your future garden! So if your looking to dive into seed starting then you’ve come to the right spot! Happy learning!

How to sow seeds indoors.

Im so glad your thinking about sowing your own seeds! Seeds are truly magical! This tiny little object in your hands gives us so much if you just put it in some soil, give it light and water! It keeps growing and gives us food, beauty, the pollinators a purpose and continues to build our soil health! Pretty amazing right? I know seed sowing for beginners can feel intimidating, but I truly believe with a little confidence and the help of this article anyone can do this!

There really are so many awesome reasons to sow your own seeds. A big one for me is getting a head start on your growing season. So many of us have short growing seasons so this is huge for us short season gardeners in having success in garden production.

Another advantage you will get is having diversity in your garden. I noticed this right away when I started buying seeds online, I had no idea there were so many different varieties of vegetables and fruit out there! Even familiar vegetables like cauliflower has such an array of options that are all different colors, a refreshing selection unlike the same old white head of cauliflower we are so accustomed to finding at the store. The possibilities are endless!

I get that seed sowing can feel overwhelming in the beginning, that’s why I wanted to write this step by step guide on exactly how to successfully start your garden from seed in the hopes to lessen your stress and inspire you to start now! So if I haven’t already convinced you, let’s dive in and learn how to sow those seeds!


  1. Seeds
  2. Pots, trays and dome lids
  3. Grow lights
  4. Heat mats
  5. Labels
  6. Fan
  7. Seed starting mix
  8. Water
  9. Table to store seedlings on

2.5 inch cell pots for seed sowing
Inside the greenhouse, all of our trays and seedling pots ready to go for seed sowing! Pots are from bootstrap farmer

Now let’s dive deeper into our list.

1. Seeds

When choosing your seeds there are a few different things to keep in mind. Your climate, disease resistant, and of course what sounds the most delicious to you! Don’t be afraid to try some new things you’ve never had before as well! Like I mentioned the perk of buying from seed is the abundance of variety. When it comes to your climate you need to take into consideration if you have a shorter growing season or longer, hotter or cooler? If your growing season is short like mine then be on the lookout for shorter time to maturity.

For example, the Olympic Crown Cauliflower from Territorial Seed company is 240 days till maturity. For my short growing season that is way too long. I would spend months tending to a plant that would get taken out by the frost before I ever was able to harvest my Cauliflower. Instead I could get the Skywalker Crown Cauliflower seed which is only 80 days until maturity and therefore reap the harvest of some beautiful Cauliflower sooner!

Read those seed packets!

This is where reading those seed packets is essential. If you live in the North like me you also want to be on the lookout for cold hardy seeds, that way if a light frost comes your way and your plant is mature enough then your plant will be more likely to survive.

The opposite of that, if you are in the south and frost isn’t your concern and its more extreme heat, then search for slow to bolt seed. Bolting means your plant flowers and goes to seed before you can harvest. As for disease resistant, that is something that might take some time to figure out exactly what your garden is prone to once you get going.

If you still can’t figure out what seeds to buy, I would recommend looking at your grocery shopping list. Pay attention to the vegetables you are buying at the store and then go ahead and grab the seeds for those particular vegetables. That way you know for sure you and your family enjoy them and will utilize those vegetables.

For purchasing seeds, here is a list of my favorite seed companies to get you started. Happy Shopping!

Seed packets and seed storage
Going through all my seeds to get ready for seed starting! Check out my seed storage.

2.Pots, Trays, and Dome Lids

When sowing your seeds indoors you are going to need some supplies and there are quite a few options when choosing your supplies. You can go on the cheaper end or choose to invest in some nicer ones. I would suggest not investing too much here in the beginning. Wait until you’re a year in to make sure you enjoy sowing your own seeds. For less expensive options Amazon has some good choices like these pots, these trays, and these dome lids. These are what I started with and used for 2 years before investing in some more heavy duty ones. Note, I still do own and use my old ones as well though!

Once I was ready to invest I purchased these 2.5 seed pots from bootstrap farmer. Let me just say I love them! They are super durable and I can tell they are going to last many many seasons. The fun colors also give me life! Bringing these out just before spring puts a big smile on my face. I also like that you can somewhat organize your seedlings per colors of seedling pots. If color isn’t your thing, don’t fret they have all black as well. Along with the pots, I grabbed these 1020 extra strength trays and 1020 extra strength dome lids and I can’t say enough good things.

Size of containers for seed sowing

As far as size in containers to go with, it might take a couple rounds of sowing seeds to figure out the right fit for you. There are smaller options like these 6 cell trays that are 1 1/2 Inch per cell compared to the ones listed above that are 2 1/2 Inch containers.

There are definitely reasons for each. For the smaller cell trays you’re able to get 6 seedlings in your one little pot, but the downside is since they are such small cells you don’t have much room for growth if your going to be keeping them indoors under a grow light for any length of time.

Additionally there could be more of a chance of your seedlings getting root bound. Where as the larger 2 1/2 inch pots gives you some extra time before your plants get root bound. I tend to lean in favor of the larger 2 1/2 inch pots for most of my seed starting.

If I do use the 6 cell trays I use them for things like herbs, flowers, lettuces, Ect. Speaking of potting up, if you’re like me and have that short growing season and you get a big head start on seed starting then there is a chance that you will need to pot up your plants. There are even going to be bigger pot options like these 6 inch and 8 inch options. These are going to be nice to have on hand mainly for those plants that just need to be potted up.

Perks of 6 cell trays

  • More seeds sown per container.
  • Saves space because of size.
  • Less soil used.

Perks of larger pots

  1. Larger containers are going to give you more roots space. Things like Zucchini can get big fast, therefor increasing your chances of getting root-bound sooner.
  2. More moister retention. Larger pots mean more soil, this will help to hang on to that water a little better, lessening the chances of drying out.
  3. Extra time. Starting out in big pots from the get-go is really going to give you and your seedling that extra time it needs before your ready to plant out in your garden. That way hopefully you won’t need to take the extra step of potting up.

An additional option would be soil blocking. Soil blocking is a seed starting technique that relies on planting seeds in cubes of soil rather than cell trays or pots. The potting soil acts as both the growing medium and the container. Soil blockers, which are often metal tools, are used to create the soil blocks. I have personally never tried soil blocking so I suggest doing some extra research on the “how to” part of this.

The perks of soil blocking:

  • They are able to be planted straight into the garden, no pot to remove and then have to sanitize.
  • Soil block plants have more root mass than comparably sized round pots because of the larger volume of soil contained in a cube versus in your round pot.
  • The reduced handling at transplant time allows for minimal transplant shock.
  • No use of plastic.

Regardless of your pot of choice you are going to want trays to set your pots in. These are going to keep all your seedlings organized, make moving them easy and most importantly going to allow you to bottom water feed your plants(I will go into detail about this below). Over top of your trays you are going to want your dome lids to be kept on after you’ve sown your seeds before they have sprouted. These lids are going to keep in the moisture and warmth to assist in the germination of your seeds.

A mix of empty seedling pots
All my pots set up and ready to be filled and seed sowing to begin!

3. Grow lights

I know we have all seen those beautiful pictures on Pinterest of seedlings in a window seal, but unfortunately natural sunlight from a window just doesn’t cut it. Sure throw a few herbs in a pot by your kitchen window! That’s a great way to add some green to your kitchen and get those fresh herbs for cooking. But if your serious about growing your own food, you are going to need to invest in some grow lights.

The main reason our seedlings need grow lights is because with insufficient light your seedlings will get leggy. This is when they stretch out super tall and thin in search for more light. Some people think the taller the seedling the healthier it is and actually it’s the opposite. Leggy seedlings are going to be weak and susceptible to breaking. The shorter and stockier your plants are the better!

Grow light options

The two most popular grow light options are going to use fluorescent lights or LED lights. For many years, fluorescent lights were the go-to seed starting bulbs for gardeners, but LEDs have become the more popular choice. LEDs tend to be more expensive than fluorescent bulbs, but they are very energy-efficient and long-lasting. 

I prefer the wider grow lights because my seedlings are set up in my garage where there is no natural sunlight so I want the most maximum coverage over my seedlings. If your in a warmer climate and are able to utilize a greenhouse to keep your seedlings but need some supplemental light on those dark winter days then you might want to go with the smaller, skinnier lights that will not block all the light and let some of that natural light through.

Personally I use these fluorescent VIVOSUN T5 Grow Lights and they have worked great for years. Here are two different LED options, one with a higher price range and one on the lower price range. For the higher price range check out the Mars Hydro TSW2000 Led Grow Light and for the lower price range the GooingTop LED Grow Light.

Regardless of the light you choose you are going to want to have about 14-16 hours of light and 6-8 hours of dark. I highly suggest using a timer system for this! A friend of mine suggested this and it has been a game changer. Your able to make this process a little more hands off, which for me is huge. Anything I can make easier and make it to where I don’t have to think about it is a win win for me! I use this BN-LINK 24 Hour Plug-in Mechanical Timer and it works great.

Hanging up your grow light

Once you choose the perfect spot to set up shop for your seedlings and you have all your seeds sown, your going to want to get those grow lights hung up right away. I remember my first year sowing seeds I thought it was gonna take weeks for my seeds to sprout when in reality some had started sprouting in less the a week! Needless to say I wasn’t fully prepared with my light set up and like we talked about before, inadequate light equals unwanted leggy seedlings. Therefor I suggest having your lights hung and ready to go to ensure that doesn’t happen.

When hanging your lights you are going to want to make sure you are hanging them on some sort of system where you can easily move them closer and farther away as they get larger. You really want them to be just a few inches above your seedlings. Some of the stronger LED grow lights have a chance of burning your plants so please be sure to read instructions on the grow lights for the height recommendation.

Seedlings under a grow light after seed sowing
Grow light hung up and ready to help these seedlings grow!

4. Heat Mats

I highly recommend using a heat mat under your seedlings. The ideal soil temperature for most seedlings is between 70-80°F so unless you have a perfectly controlled temperature area, the best option is a heat mat. Since I keep my seedlings in my unheated garage this is a must have for me. I start my seeds the first weekend in February and we typically still have snowy cold days in our forecast.

If you don’t want to spend the extra money on heat mats don’t fret, most seeds can sprout in the 50-60s, but keep in mind its usually a slower germination rate and with less success. Some seeds like lettuce actually prefer cooler soil temps to germinate so I typically keep my lettuce tray off to the side of my heat mat.

I use the , VIVOSUN 48″x20.75″ Seedling Heat Mat and Digital Thermostat Combo Set. Its great! It has a digital thermostat so you can set your temp, stick the probe in the soil and move on with your day! If your soil gets too warm it will automatically turn the heat mats off. Another great hands off option!

Vivosun seedling heat mat
My favorite heat mat to use after seed sowing! Lets warm those seedlings up!

5. Labels

This might seem like a simple one, but trust me it’s important. After seed sowing you are never going to remember what seedling pot is what. They are all going to look like a pot of soil. So I suggest before you sow your seeds sit down with a cup of coffee or drink of choice and all your seeds, plan out exactly what seeds you’re wanting to plant for that particular season and how many of each, then get to work writing out all your labels. That way come seed sowing day there is no stopping to write down what each seed cell is. You will simply be able to pop your labels in the correct cells and get to work sowing those seeds!

As far as kinds of labels, there are many different options. If you like to be creative here, pop over to Pinterest and search seedling labels and make your own! Ive seen people use popsicle sticks, clothes pins, and pieces of scrap wood. If you’re growing on the smaller scale and don’t have a ton of seedlings and you want fun unique labels, hop on over to Etsy and find some cool ones from small shops. So if you are growing on a little larger scale and your wanting no fuss then I suggest buying these HOMENOTE 200 Pcs 4″ Plastic Plant Labels Waterproof Plant Tags for Seedling. They are inexpensive and you can re-use them by using rubbing alcohol to wipe off the permeant marker season after season.

6. Fan

Another thing that seems simple but is very important is air circulation. This is where the fan comes in. Having a fan is going to create movement for the seedlings to develop strength and prepare them for their permeant home outdoors with all sorts of different weather conditions. Good air circulation will also help prevent disease, mold, and a condition called damping off. This is when your plant is in excessively damp conditions and can cause the young seedling to die of a fungal infection. So to solve all of this grab yourself an oscillating fan and turn it on them once the seedlings are a few weeks old. I typically do this after I thin my seedlings down to one plant per cell.

7. Seed starting mix and tote

We can’t sow our seeds without our soil right! Your choice of soil is very important. You only want to use seed starting mix. You want a light fluffy soil so your awesome tiny little seeds can easily push through the soil. Never go grab soil out of your garden beds, they could have pests or disease that would inhibit germination in your seedlings. You do not want to use something like potting soil or straight compost, they will be too dense and heavy. Something like compost is going to be too strong for your little seedlings.

Seeds do not need ANY fertilizer! Fertilizer could actually burn the young seedlings so be extra careful with your selection once it is time to fertilize. I typically use G&B organics bagged seed starting mix and throw in a couple handfuls of the G&B worm castings for a little extra something! I find the G&B bagged soils at my local nursery but if you aren’t close to a nursery I know Wilco sells it as well.

Im sure if you’ve watched people sowing seeds you have seen people adding their soil to a tote or some kind of bin and using that while seed starting, and for dang good reason! This is such an easy way to get your water added in and soil mixed up to the right consistency! I would highly recommend this option!

8. Water

Soil, seeds, water and light, that’s all we need to grow food right! Some people feel really strong about chlorinated water versus dechlorinated water. Im not a stickler either way on this one. I don’t feel as though we have super harsh water where I’m from so you could base your decision off your water source. In my opinion, bottom line you just need water! How you water is more important in my opinion and we will get to that later on.

9. Table for storing seeds

I’m not one to like clutter. So to have seedlings on my kitchen table bothers me. You might have a greenhouse to store your seedlings in that stays warm enough and if you do that’s great! If not, that’s where I recommend a few of these tables. They have been great for seed starting for me. Once seed starting season rolls around I pull them out and stick them under the grow lights in my garage and they live their until I’m done sowing my own seeds. Then they easily fold up and get stored away until next time!

Seedlings on a table after seed sowing

Ok we have all our supplies.. Lets sow some seeds!

Here you will find your step by step guide for seed sowing.

I promise its not as intimidating as you think! Once you get your rhythm down you will see just how easy and fun this can be! Get ready to be a pro!

Step one- Plan

Like I talked about up top, I enjoy sitting down the day before with a cup of coffee and plan out everything I’m growing, how much of that specific plant I’m growing and get all my labels written out. I find this makes seed sowing day a little easier without having to stop and write down what seed I just sowed with soil all over my hands.

Step two- Organize your seed trays/pots

Lay out all of your seeding trays and get your seedling pots set up in the trays. Have them all in a line and ready to go.

Step three- Mix up your soil

Get your seed starting soil all ready. Grab your tote, bag of seed starting mix and your water. Add your seed starting mix and water into your tote and mix around until you’ve reached the right consistency. Remember, you want light and fluffy. Don’t add too much water to where it starts to get heavy and soggy. The best way to describe what you are looking for is the consistency of a wrung out sponge.

A tote full of seedling soil mix filling up a cell pot for seed sowing

Step four- Fill your seed pots

Start filling your seedling pots. Grab a seedling pot and go right over to your tote and start filling. It is important not to compact the soil into the cups. Again we are going for light and airy. so fill them up but don’t push all that soil down. Give it a little shake to loose that soil up and then move onto the next. I like to go through and fill up every single one of my seedling cells before seed sowing. This to me is the most efficient way of getting this done. Then you’re done with soil, no messy hands and you can move onto opening up those seed packets.

Trays of seedling pots filled with soil after seed sowing
All of my seedling cups filled up and ready to go

Step five- Add your labels

Ready to use those labels you spent your morning coffee time on? Go ahead and figure out which labels you want in which seed cells and put them in! Easy huh!

seedling cups labeled and filled with soil after seed sowing
Labels ready.

Step six- Seed Sowing time!

You are ready for the sowing of the seeds! Let’s get organized here real quick. Get your basket of seeds and divvy the right ones to the right trays. For example if your first tray has a mix of, Broccoli, Cauliflower and Bok Choi then go ahead and set those ones out beside that tray. move onto your next tray and do the same thing until all your seeds are right by the tray they are going to be sown into.

Territorial seedling packet
Territorial seed packet

When sowing your seeds don’t forget to read that seed packet! It’s going to give you all the information on how to sow that specific seed! Say you were going to sowing something like beets its probably going to have you sow it at 1/2 inch depth because the seed is on the bigger end. On the other hand if you were sowing something like lettuce seed (which is very tiny) then its gonna have you surface sow that and just barley cover it with soil.

Its important not to sow your seeds to deep because then you will make it that much harder for them to break through the surface! We want to make it as easy as possible for our little seeds right!

Seed Sowing

Time to create a little hole/indent with your finger. I prefer to go through the whole tray and make my indents before seed sowing. Then I will sprinkle those seeds in and lightly cover the seeds with soil. Be nice and gentle when doing this step, we don’t want to push those seeds down farther into the soil.

seed sowing some cabbage in a blue 2.5 cell pot
Seed sowing some Napa Cabbage!

As far as how many seeds to sow per container, that will depend on the seeds germination rate. If the germination rate is on the high side like 95% then I typically sow 2 seeds. If its on the lower end like 70% then I’m going to go ahead and sow about 4 seeds. There isn’t exact rules you need to follow on this, but I will say I would never just sow 1 seed. Then you are really depending on that one single seed to sprout and if it doesn’t you’ve wasted all this time seed sowing.

Give your seeds some grace here and sow a few seeds per each cell pot just to be sure you get some nice seedlings sprouting up! Keep in mind for tiny seeds like lettuce, its super hard to be exact in the amount. Just go ahead and grab a little pinch and sprinkle them in. We will be thinning out later down the road so its no biggie if you get too many.

How many seeds to sow?

Going along with giving your seeds some grace, don’t just plant one of each vegetable or fruit your hoping to get. For example, your hoping to be harvesting beautiful heads of broccoli and cauliflower and leafs of kale every day for your smoothies, well if you’ve only sown one broccoli plant, one cauliflower plant and one kale plant and for some reason all 3 of them die before you get them into the garden, or after a week of being out in the garden, well then your going to be super bummed you went through all that work of seed sowing.

I always sow at least 3 of each plant I’m wanting. But typically quite a few more. If you have extra seedling starts that you don’t have room for, ask some friends or neighbors if they want to tackle gardening and you can give them your left over starts and teach them all the knowledge you’ve just gained! The more gardeners in this world the better right!

Direct sowing

Speaking on reading those seed packets, you will notice some seed packets will tell you to direct sow into the garden when you are past your frost date. This will be things like, beans, peas, beets and so on. A lot of these plants don’t like their roots disturbed. Things like beans and peas are also going to have you pre soak the seed prior to seed sowing. This will give them a jump start and soften that rougher outer shell giving it an easier time in the sprouting process. Take a couple of glasses and pop your seeds inside with some water the night before planting out in the garden! It is very simple.

When it comes to certain seeds that tell you to only direct sow, I really encourage you to push the limits on this! Be a rule breaker when seed sowing! I always start my beet seeds indoors and have zero problem. Do a test, plant one set of beets outside and one set inside and see which does better! Gardening in my opinion is all about trial and error. The only way to know what works and what doesn’t is by trying! I also encourage you to have some sort of notebook or notes on your phone to track your data if you start breaking those rules! Write down what you learned and what you want to try next time!

Step seven- Water

We already watered our soil when we pre moistened it right? So we don’t want to take a watering can and dump a bunch of water over them. But we need to make sure the top of our soil doesn’t dry out. If that happens then your seeds are going to dry out and not germinate. We want to give them a nice misting with a fine misting spray bottle. I love this spray bottle for the gentle light misting it gives.

Bottom watering seedlings in my bootstrap farmers trays
Bottom Watering my seedlings

Step eight- Use those dome lids

Here is where are dome lids are gonna come in. We are gonna go ahead and cover our seedling trays. But first I like to give the inside of the dome lids a light misting to create and keep that moist environment to get those seeds to sprout. Once your seedling trays are covered your ready to put them on your table with your heating mat. Don’t forget to add your probe from the heat mat to your soil and set the thermostat anywhere between 70-80 degrees. I typically set mine to 75 degrees. Happy medium right? This is where they will live until they are ready for the garden!

Congratulations! You have now successfully sown your own seeds! Now lets learn how to care for these babies until we get to graduate them to the garden!

Greenhouse filled with trays of seedlings after seed sowing

Tips on tending those seedlings.

Here you are going to find some on going seedling care information. We’ve sown all our seeds and now we need to learn to take care of them right!

Watering from below… I mentioned this up above, so now let’s go into some detail about this. Its very simple! You are literally doing just that! This is where those trays will come in handy. All your going to do is take a watering can, preferably one with a slender neck like this watering can and pour about 1-2 inches of water into your tray. Your amazing little seedlings will then soak up that water taking what they need!

Now lets get a little more detailed, be careful with how much water you are adding and when you are watering. For example, you don’t want to fill your entire tray up with water and then go to bed for the evening. Then you would be risking your seedlings sitting in water all night and getting waterlogged. That’s going to cause over watering which can stunt your plants, and possible disease.

Ideally add and even layer of water in your tray and walk away for 20 minutes. Come back and check it. If your plants soak up all the water super quick and they still seem dry, add another even layer. If you come back and the plants are nicely watered but you still have water in your trays go ahead and get that extra water out. You can try and dump the water out but that can be tough.

I use a turkey baster and suck the remaining water out. To be honest this is one of my least favorite tasks so I really try to not add more water then I think my plants are gonna drink up. You will eventually figure out that sweet spot of how much water your plant babies need!

Benefits of watering from below

  1. Watering from below is going to encourage those roots to dig down deep and grow nice and strong!
  2. This will also help to not create an environment to thrive and cause things like mold, fungi, or other diseases setting up shop on the top of your soil.
  3. Lastly, watering from below is really going to help you in not overwatering your plants.

How often should I water?

Before your plants have sprouted you want to be checking every day to ensure that top soil hasn’t dried out. You might need a light misting every day or every other day. Once they have sprouted you will then move onto that bottom feeding we talked about and you will scale back that watering a bit. I like to let my soil dry out a bit between waterings, but not completely dried out. For me this is about every 3 days. But I am checking on a daily basis to see what my plants are needing!

Grow lights

Remember your seedlings don’t need light until they have sprouted. So be sure to be checking your seedlings a couple times a day to see if any have sprouted and then its time to flip on those lights and set your automatic timers! Make sure your lights are nice and close to those tiny little sprouts, hovering just above them! We don’t want them stretching long and tall in search of light!

You will notice as they are growing if they start to get leggy. Don’t panic, just lower your light a little more. Another tip with this is to ensure all your baby seedlings are getting a chance to be directly under those lights, rotate your trays every few days. That way the ones around the outer edges are getting their turn to be right under the light.

A table of seedlings under a grow light.

Thinning your seedlings

After your seedlings first set of true leafs appear you are going to do something called thinning your seedlings. It’s very easy and your doing exactly as it sounds! For-warning, its going to be sad those first few times! Let me explain a little bit more about this. Remember back when we were seed sowing into your cell pots and we talked about how many seeds per container to sow? We decided on sowing 2-4 per container right? Well they all sprouted! Yay proud mom moment!

Obviously we really want to give our seedlings the best chance of growing strong and healthy and the best way to do that is to only have one seedling per cell pot. So unfortunately the other three have to go . Look for the healthiest looking seedling, nice, straight and the least leggy of them all. This will all be so worth it when you see what happens over the next 2 weeks! You will see definite growth! If we don’t thin our seedlings they will all be fighting with one another for food, water and root space. So instead of having 3-4 mediocre plants in your one cell pot, your gonna have 1 really healthy one!

Yellow 2.5 cell pots seedlings after seed sowing
My seedlings before thinning them to one plant per cell.

One more perk of thinning your seedlings

You don’t have to throw away a majority of your thinning’s! Keep them and use them as micro-greens! You can top your salad for lunch with them, or throw them into your stir-fry for dinner and your getting a little added boost of health in your meal. I want to mention there are a few seedling thinning’s you don’t want to eat, I typically toss those ones to the chickens! The rule of thumb on this is if you wouldn’t normally eat their leafs then don’t eat the micro-green’s.

Example’s of Seedling thinning’s you wouldn’t eat.

  1. Tomatoes
  2. Peppers
  3. Eggplant’s
  4. Cuccumber’s
  5. Melon
  6. Green Bean’s
  7. Potato Greens
  8. Rhubarb (TOXIC)
A bowl of micro greens.
All my yummy micro greens ready to be tossed onto a fresh salad.


We know freshly sowed seeds don’t need fertilizer, but after a handful of weeks we can go ahead and give them a little boost! I do this the day I thin my seedlings. They get thinned and fertilized all in the same day and you have some pretty happy plants! You can fertilize every so often but don’t get tempted to over do it here. sometimes less is more! There are different options you can use here but you still want something that is mild, they are still fragile seedlings. I will list a few options you could use for this.

Fertilizer options

Air flow

Don’t forget to turn that fan on those seedlings after you have thinned and fertilized them! We have our seeds in this perfectly protected environment so they aren’t getting the elements of the wild outdoors, which in part is good! But we do want to strengthen up those little seedlings a little bit to get them ready for when they are out in the unknown elements! All we are looking for here is a gentle wind, nothing too strong. I tend to have my oscillating fan on during the day and then I turn it off at night. This air flow is also going to help prevent with harmful diseases and potential fungi that thrive in a more moist environment.

Talk and tickle

You might have heard of people talking and tickling their plants as well! Sounds funny but we all like words of encouragement right! I have been sowing seeds for for a while now and I gotta say I still get giddy when I see my baby seeds sprout and start to grow I can’t help but encourage them along! There is something so magical about the fact that this tiny seed can grow into something so amazing and life giving. While you are at it give your plants a little tickle, gently run your hands across them back and forth. This is just another way to toughen up your seedlings!

Potting up

Some people don’t mind the process of potting up… Me on the other hand, I’m not a fan. It feels like I’m going through the process twice with the same plant and when you are succession sowing (continually sowing seeds for an ongoing harvest) that’s a lot of filling pots with soil and adding seeds. So if I can skip the potting up process I definitely try! For me when seed sowing this looks like starting off in those slightly bigger pots instead of the small 6 cell trays.

But sometimes it’s inevitable. If your plant starts outgrowing the pot it is in then it will start to get root bound and if this isn’t taken care of then there’s a chance that even when you plant it in the garden with lots of space, the roots could stay in a tight ball not expanding down deep and therefor creating a less healthy plant.

Potting up is just simply taking that seedling, say a tomato plant that’s outgrown its cell pot and potting it up to a larger pot. This is where those 8 inch pots we talked about earlier will come in handy. When I do this process I do not use a seed starting mix. Your plant at this point is going to be big enough to handle something a little richer in nutrients.

Hardening off

We’re on to the last step in tending for our now big seedlings! This process is call hardening off, it’s simple and yet very important to the health of your plants. Our seedlings have been in a nice protected area with great light, a nice and gentle breeze from our fan and warmth from our heat mats for a chunk of time now. If we were to take them from this protected environment to the great outdoors all in one day then they would get shocked. The sun is a much more powerful light source then our lights, depending on the weather it can either be way hotter then our seedlings are used too or way colder. They need to be eased into all this unknown territory!

You may be wondering when the right time is to start this process. In short there is no “right time” It is really is based on the season you are in and the weather. In my opinion it is wise to give your seedlings at least few weeks in their protected comfortable environment before starting this hardening off process. The more time they have to be indoors after you have thinned them and fertilized them in a “perfect” environment the better.

How this hardening off process works is, once your plants are ready for the permeant home in your garden you are going first plan ahead. Take a look at the weather and make sure you have nice consistent weather the next week. If you see a storm rolling in, go ahead and wait! If the weather looks good then great!

Onto the next step.

Now you are going to take a week and slowly ease them into being outside. Every day you will increase the amount they are outside and in direct sun. I’m going to go ahead and give an example schedule to follow as a guide. This isn’t exact and you can tweak it to fit you and your plants!

Hardening off schedule

  1. Take plants outside in full shade in the morning for 20 minutes
  2. Take plants outside in full shade in the morning for 1 hour
  3. Take plants outside in partial morning sun for 30 minutes
  4. Take plants outside in partial morning sun for 1 hour
  5. Take plants outside in afternoon sun for 2 hour
  6. Take plants outside in afternoon sun for half day
  7. Take plants out in morning and leave them outside in full sun all day
  8. Planting day!!

There is an example schedule, you can see I’m gradually letting my plants experience different amounts of time being outside, in shade, morning sun, afternoon sun. This is going to dramatically help your plants to not get shocked which then could potentially stunt their growth! We have tended to our plants for so long now so don’t skip this step and regret it later!

Trays of seedlings outside hardening off.
Starting off the hardening off process in some shade

Planting day!

Its time for your plants to graduate from (in my case) the garage! I love “Planting Out” day so much! Its so much fun to find the perfect spot in your garden for all your babies you’ve grown from seed! You did it! Be very proud of yourself. Seed sowing is so fun but definitely an extra step and time.

Make sure just like with the hardening off process, you plan ahead and check your weather forecast. If a rain storm or heat wave is coming then hold off till it’s over. Keep in mind if this is the case and you put your plants back in their protected place inside for more then a couple days then you will have to go through the hardening off process again.

If planting day comes around for me and the weather isn’t great for the next four days, I like to just continue that hardening off process that way I’m not having to start over. I just make sure I’m not leaving the plants outside for an hour in a full blown rain storm.

Raised garden beds filled with Vegetables.
My seedlings all tucked into their new home!

Thank you for taking the time to read through this, I truly hope you found it helpful and encouraging for you to take the deep dive into sowing your own seeds! If you dive into seed sowing I would love to follow along with your journey! Tag me on Instagram @thekalliofarmhouse. And if you never want to miss a post don’t forget to subscribe! You can also keep up with me on Pinterest! Of course if you have any questions I am here to help! Leave a comment down bellow.

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