How to Start Seeds Indoors: Step-by-Step

With a few easy steps, you'll have sprouts in no time.

Seedlings growing
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Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 - 2 weeks
  • Yield: 20-30 plants
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0-20

Learning how to start seeds indoors is a great skill that will not only save you money over the years but also serve as a rewarding project. If you've got a green thumb, there's nothing like watching a plant go from seed to sprout. 

Seed starting is relatively simple and does not require expensive supplies or materials. If you choose, you can look for a seed-starting kit. Plenty of gardeners will start seeds with common household objects like egg cartons or toilet paper rolls, which really makes it a cost-effective hobby. Here are a few tips to get you and your seeds started in the right direction.

Note for Materials

How many seeds you plant should depend on your preference as well as the container sizes. If this is your first time starting seeds indoors, try 20 seeds or less. If you have some experience and ample materials on hand, you know the sky's the limit.

What You'll Need

Tools

  • 1 grow bulb or light source
  • 1 spoon

Materials

  • seeds
  • soil
  • containers
  • plant markers

Instructions

How to Start Seeds With a Grow Light

If you do not have sufficient access to natural light, give yourself a much-needed edge by using a special light.

  1. Choose a Light

    You don’t necessarily have to buy an expensive grow light, though that can be a great investment. Another option is to use a basic grow bulb, which you can use with most lamps and pick up for around $10-15. Shop around and check out both options.

  2. Prepare the Containers

    Using a spoon, scoop a good soil mix into the containers you have chosen for planting. Consider using biodegradable pots because they're quite low maintenance—when it’s time to plant, you can just drop them into their next resting place.

  3. Plant Your Seeds

    With planting your seeds, read the back of your seed packet so you know how deep to plant them. Once they are in the soil, add water and make sure they are getting sun. Keep in mind that the new seeds don’t need a lot of water. Either use your spoon to add just a little bit of water at a time or use a spray bottle to spritz the top. Now, wait for your sprouts, which could pop up in a few days or up to a week.

How to Start Seeds Without a Grow Light

  1. Choose a Good Location

    Budding seedlings need as much as 10-14 hours of light per day. This is much more than most plants because they’re trying to get a good, strong start. Choose carefully because if you don’t have the required light, your seedlings are going to struggle.

  2. Prep Your Containers

    This step is the same, whether you’re using a grow light or not. Scoop soil into your chosen containers. 

  3. Add Seeds

    Plant seeds at the recommended depth, as outlined on the back of the seed pack. Many times, gardeners will plant a few seeds in each container in case a couple do not germinate.

Seed-Starting Tips

Regulate your temperature. Temperature is very important when it comes to germination and getting seeds to sprout. Most seeds germinate when the soil is between 68-86 degrees F. Keep your containers away from cold or drafty spots. (This is another reason a grow light can come in handy because it will heat up the soil.)

Thin out your sprouts. Thinning your sprouts is key, especially if you’ve planted multiple seeds in each container. They will inevitably start competing for the same resources—light and water—so after they are an inch or two tall, it is best to thin them out to just one or two.

Transplant your seeds. Once your seedlings are strong enough, you can transplant them to their next or permanent location. But don’t move them to an outdoor location unless you have the right conditions: warm and sunny. Also, make sure to wait for seedlings to reach a few inches tall before moving them; they are strong enough and somewhat established.

Watch for seeds growing too slow. If you don’t see seedlings sprouting within a week, check your lighting and temperature. These are the two biggest reasons you might have a challenge. 

Watch for seeds growing too fast. Slow and steady will likely win the race. So if you’re seeing quick success, you might want to check your growing conditions. When seeds grow tall very quickly, this may mean they don’t have enough light, so they start getting “leggy” as they try growing toward the little bit of light source available. As a result, the stems won’t be strong enough to hold the tops. Move them to a better light source, otherwise, you might need to start new seeds.