In “How to Start Seeds Indoors with Grow Lights”, we will take you through all of the steps necessary to grow your own seedlings at home!
Contrary to what you might have been told or heard, starting seeds indoors isn’t difficult or expensive. With a little knowledge and just a few supplies, you’ll be set to grow your own plants year after year!
Why Should You Start Seeds Indoors?
The primary reason that you would want to start seeds indoors is to insure a good harvest from plants with a long growing cycle.
For example, tomato plants can take from 100-120 days to mature. If you were to start them from seed outdoors once it was warm enough, chances are that colder temperatures would take over before your tomatoes had a chance to fully develop.
Not every vegetable needs to be started indoors, like green beans for example. Green beans take about 55 days to mature and can be planted and harvested easily in one summer.
When Should I Start Seeds Indoors with Grow Lights?
Deciding exactly when to start your seeds indoors is determined by your last frost date, and that can be found here.
My last frost date is April 22, but to be honest, I’ve seen snow many times in late April here in Ohio. So, I won’t put much of anything out before the week of Mother’s Day.
Whatever date you feel as though it’s safe to plant outside in your area (yes, it’s ok to decide for yourself based on your experiences) then determine the date you want to begin your seedlings indoors by counting backward.
Mother’s Day is the locally accepted day here in Ohio, zone 5, despite the April 22 last frost date.
In other words, when you read the instructions on the back of your tomato seeds, it might say “start indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost date”. If your last frost date is April 22 like mine is, then you would want to begin your seeds indoors by March 11.
There is no harm in beginning seeds indoors earlier than that, but just understand that your plants may get really big!
I’m totally ok with that.
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What Vegetables Should You Begin Indoors?
Any vegetable or flower with a long growing cycle or that you want to get a head start with!
Supplies Needed to Start Seeds Indoors:
You will need a few basic supplies to start your seeds indoors, however, the good news is that they should last you a long time if you take care of them and store them away when not in use.
Good Quality Seeds– It all begins with the seeds and to some degree, you get what you pay for. That said, it isn’t necessary to buy the most expensive seeds on the market, but I would recommend purchasing from a reputable seed company.
While there are many seed companies out there, one of my favorites is Territorial Seed Company. They sell a good selection of seeds and offer a number of tools on their website, including a garden planner. Check them out!
There are a lot of choices when it comes to seed trays, and they are available just about everywhere in the Spring! Whatever you choose to use, whether it be seed trays from Walmart or Amazon, your seeds will still grow.
What I do want to point out, however, is that it makes sense to buy decent-quality seed trays that will last you from year to year.
I will be using these seed trays this year, for the price and the features, they were well worth it.
Heat for your seeds will definitely help them to germinate faster and grow better than without heat. These heat mat are far less expensive than they used to be, an excellent investment to use year after year.
* A tall sturdy shelf or table (depending on how many trays you’re planning to start), preferably metal.
*Potting soil (I prefer organic) Available at just about any discount department store, like Walmart or farm stores, like Rural King.
If you’re going to start seeds indoors, purchasing size appropriate grow lights will help your seeds to get the best possible start! Grow lights have come a long way as well, especially now that they come with LED full-spectrum lights that use far less electricity and cost a lot less!
*Plastic garden markers or Popsicle sticks
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What is the Process for Starting Seeds?
Prepare Trays with Soil
Let’s begin by deciding on a work area. When possible, I take my seed trays and potting soil outdoors. First, before opening your bag of potting soil, crush it well with your hands to break up any lumps.
Then open your bag of potting soil and moisten it just a bit, mixing it with your hands.
Before you spread your potting soil, if you’re using last year’s trays, be sure to wash them well with hot, soapy water.
I like to take my seed-starting trays outside and pour the potting soil over the trays, smoothing the soil with my hands. Make sure all of the cells are filled with soil.
Before you begin to plant your seeds, check the back of the seed package to see how deep you should press the seed into the soil. This is an important part of making sure your seeds germinate properly.
I love to use this little seed dispenser! It really helps with those tiny seeds!
Put several seeds in each seed pod and then do as the directions instruct.
Water Your Seeds and Cover
Once you’ve finished planting all of your trays and labeling your rows, it’s time to water your seeds by misting them with water. Do not overwater them! Then cover them with the cover that came with the trays or use cellophane.
When starting seeds, it’s important to keep your seeds moist, but not wet.
Having a nice glass spray bottle makes this so much easier! You’ll want to keep your bottle of water full so that you can spray your seeds a couple of times daily.
Your seedlings need a greenhouse effect, which will be accomplished with the plastic lids that come with the trays. Don’t forget or neglect this step!
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Putting it All Together
Now it’s time to put everything together!
Whether you’re using a shelf, table (or bar stools as I did here!), set your heating mat in place and plug it in to warm up.
Next, place your seed trays on the mat.
If you’re using a metal shelf for your seedings, then dandle your grow lights until they’re just about an inch above your seed tray cover. If you keep them too high, your seedlings will get long and leggy.
If you’re using a setup like mine, I simply propped the ends of my grow lights on large books, adjusting with another book as needed.
Growing Tips for Beginners
1. It’s important to remember to turn your grow lights and mat off at night, just like the sun goes down and the soil cools off at night for other plants.
2. When your seedlings begin to show their second set of leaves, called the cotyledon, your plants will need to be supplemented with a fertilizer designed for seedlings.
4. When the seedlings begin to press against the top of the lid, you may remove it.
5. Soon it will be time to harden off your plants and prepare them for planting outdoors!
You will save hundreds of dollars over the years by starting your own seeds indoors and it’s easy to get started!
Why not begin seed starting with some sweet potatoes or garlic inside? It’s easy, you can do it today!
This Post Has 5 Comments
I appreciate the detailed pictures of your set up! That is very helpful. Thanks for the information.
You are very welcome! Good luck!
so ready to start gardening. The weather seems to not be able to make up its mind. I have personally never started my seeds like you but this is something worth looking into
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I have these pesty little knats on my seedlings and have tried fruit fly traps and that does not work any ideas on how to get rid of them?
Allison, those sound like fungus gnats! Here’s an article about them and how to get rid of them…thanks for the great question!