Starting seeds is one of my favorite activities. It’s actually one of our whole family’s favorite things to do together. I love how excited everyone gets to start their own seeds. The kids (and the grownups) spend weeks thinking about and planning for what they’re going to grow.
Amidst the planning we tend to focus mostly on what seed varieties we want. Sometimes the supplies to start seeds get left behind until last minute. It’s always a good idea to plan ahead so you have everything you need and stay on track.
Now, staying on track with seed starting is not my forte’. I am known to go overboard when it comes to starting seeds, especially tomatoes and peppers. I really can’t help myself, it is sort of a compulsive behavior.
Seed Starting Supplies
When you plan out your garden, you’ll need to know what types seeds and varieties you want to start. This year, I’m planting around 20 varieties of tomatoes and 13 varieties of peppers. I don’t think that’s overboard but some may. 😉
To get started, you’ll want to have the proper supplies. It’s hard to do any job without the right tools and equipment. What exactly do you need to start seeds?
Ok, so seeds seems to be the obvious thing you need. I like to do inventory of what I have on hand and then pick some of my favorite varieties (if I’m out of those seeds) and some new varieties from my favorite seed shops. I really like to buy from Seeds for Generations. They are a family owned business that I love to support.
I usually choose heirloom seeds so that I can save my own and not have to keep buying. Who am I kidding? I save my favorites and then spend my seed money on new varieties!
Ideally, you’ll have your seeds all neat and organized in a special container and it will be all lovely. Lofty goals, mine are in a plain ol’ boring cardboard box right now. I’m on the hunt for a better and prettier option but for now, it’s the box.
You will need to have some containers to start your seeds in. There are a lot of options out there. You can choose the multi cell containers, individual pots, plastic cups, peat pots, or a tray. We’ve used most of these methods. It really is a personal preference.
I prefer to use plastic cups because they are large enough to keep my plants in until they’re ready to be transplanted into the garden. I usually start 2-3 seeds per cup and gently transplant the extras to a new cup when they get their first true leaves.
If I am tight on space to start my seeds, I will use the multi cell trays. I can then transplant the plants to a larger container when they are ready to go outside. You’ll want to consider these factors, space available, goals, transplanting, etc… when choosing the containers you’ll start your seeds in.
Light Source, Heat Mats, and/or Greenhouse
Seeds need light and warmth to sprout. There are several ways to go about making a favorable environment for seed starting. If you are starting seeds inside your house, you’ll need grow lights. You can buy lights made exactly for this or you can make your own. We’ve used an old long fluorescent light from a ceiling and made a stand for it to hang from. This worked well and we could fit our trays under it.
A great option to ensure your seeds stay warm enough is a heat mat. They sell them specifically for starting seeds. I’ve never personally used them but I have heard great things about them from friends. This is a great option to ensure germination.
I’d love to have a big, beautiful greenhouse for year round growing….. some day, some day. For now, We bought a small plastic greenhouse on clearance. We just don’t have a good space or enough room in the house to start seeds so this gives us just what we need.
Since the greenhouse will be outside and it is still quite cold, we will need to use a space heater to keep our seeds warm enough to germinate. An outdoor thermometer is a must in the greenhouse. We need to monitor the temperature to make sure it stays just right for those little seeds to sprout.
Soil and Water
Your seeds will need something to grow in. You want to have a nice, rich, loose seed starting mix. If your soil is too heavy and dense, your seeds will sprout but they won’t be able to grow a good root system and will eventually die off. I’ve done this in the past it’s so sad to have all these sprouts that end up not working out.
I like to use an organic pre-made mix or make my own. I usually end up making my own as we use so much and it is more economical.
A good mix for starting seeds is 2 parts seed starting soil, 1 part peat moss, and 1/2 to 1 part vermiculite. This mix ensures a light, fluffy soil that will hold moisture well. All of which is essential for successful starts. Plus, it’s fun to play in.
Water is a must, seeds have to be moist to germinate and then stay moist to grow strong roots. You can buy a waterer or make one. I’ve had both. Sometimes I just use a cup and pour water gently on the soil. I’ve taken an old water bottle and used it for watering. A bottle with a spout lid works well or you drill holes in a traditional lid. Any of these work, just keep that soil moist.
Plant Markers or Labels
Plant marking is an absolute necessity! I alway think I’ll remember what I’ve planted where but I never do. I prefer to label everything that way there is no guessing when it comes time to harvest.
I’ve used plastic marker made for plants, popsicle sticks, and labels. All of these have their pros and cons. I’ve yet to find anything that doesn’t fade a whole lot over time. With the plant markers or popsicle sticks, I write the variety on them and stick them right in the container.
When I start my seeds in plastic cups, I usually just write on the cup itself with a permanent marker. This year, I’m going to use mailing labels and print them. I can just peel them right off and stick them on the cup. I can’t take credit for this idea, I learned it from Kaylee at The Farm on Quail Hollow.
The only downside to labels instead of removable markers is that when you transplant, you’ll have to do something else to remember your variety. If you draw a layout of your garden or make a spreadsheet, this won’t be an issue. You can just reference those and know what is where.
There are a couple of items that are useful but not essential for starting seeds. You may want to use a pair of gardening gloves. Personally, I like to dig in the dirt with my hands but I do own several pairs.
A gardening spade is another tool. I usually just scoop my dirt with one of my containers but a little spade would do the job well. Another great thing about a spade is that when you have lots of little helpers they will be easily distracted by digging in a pile of dirt.
A fancy waterer isn’t essential (though water is essential) but it may make the job easier. Sometimes you just like to have a cute little tool for the fun of it. A pretty water can is way more fun that an old bottle or cup.
That’ll get you growing!
That’s going to get you growing your own garden! It’s not a whole lot to have for something that has such a huge payoff in the end. You can gather your supplies, buy your seeds and get those babies growing!
If you aren’t sure when to start your seeds, I have written a handy dandy guide to help you out!
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Wow. It’s really amazing blog. thanks for these great posts.
thanks, Jenna, seed starting supplies are a great way (only way?) to be prepared for a substantial garden. Great post, and photos, thanks again!
Jenna Hunter says
My brother is thinking about planting some seeds in his garden. He would really like to get a professional to help him find some seed packets. Thanks for the tip about plant markers.
Thank you for sharing your idea! A little garden must be amazing!