Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors

Do you want to get a head start on your vegetable garden this year? Start growing vegetable seeds indoors! Starting

Do you want to get a head start on your vegetable garden this year?

Start growing vegetable seeds indoors!

Starting your seeds indoors gives you a jump start on growing vegetables, which is especially helpful if you have a short-growing season.  Germinating your seeds indoors where the temperatures are warmer, allows you to plant seeds on average, 4 – 6 weeks earlier then if you planted them directly in your garden.

Growing seeds indoors isn’t difficult and you don’t need any special equipment.  So are you ready?

1. Start with a planting mix, which is light in texture and drains well.

2. Moisten your planting mix with water.  You can do this by adding both to a large bowl and mixing them together with your hands or a heavy wooden spoon.  I recommend doing this outside because it can be a bit messy.  Add your moistened planting mix to a plastic seeding tray or peat pots so that it sits 1/2″ below the top of the container.  You can even use toilet paper rolls (cut in half), small paper cups or used styrofoam containers from your favorite fast-food restaurant.  Whatever you use, make sure they have drainage holes or add them yourself.

Preparing a Seeding Tray for Planting

4. Now it’s time to plant your seeds.  Lightly sprinkle your seeds on top of the soil and then add a little planting mix on top to completely cover the seeds and press the planting mix lightly, with your hands.  I recommend planting 2 – 4 seeds per pot, seeding cell, etc.  Label your seedlings.  Once they come up, it can be hard to tell different types of vegetables apart from each other.  I use popsicle sticks for labeling.  Water them gently using a sprayer.  I use a small plastic hand-held sprayer filled with water.

5. Cover with clear plastic wrap and cut some holes to help air flow.  Then place on a waterproof tray and put on top of your refrigerator, where they will stay warm until they germinate.  Check them every day to make sure they don’t dry out.  Simply touch the soil with your finger and if it feels dry, then spray them with a little water and recover them.

6. Once the seeds germinate, remove the plastic cover and move them to a bright, sunny, south-facing window.  If you don’t have enough natural light, then provide artificial light.  ‘Thin’ excess seedlings by snipping them off using scissors.

7. In 4 – 8 weeks, your plants will be ready to plant out in your garden.  However, before planting, ‘harden’ them off first, by getting them used to being outdoors.  Start by placing them out in your garden in full sun for 2 – 3 hours a day and then bringing them back inside for a week.  Then they will be ready to plant in your vegetable garden.

Here are some general guidelines for how long it takes from sowing seed to planting out in your garden for some favorite vegetables:

Cucumbers, lettuce, melons, pumpkins and squash take 3 – 4 weeks.

Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage and tomatoes take approximately 4 – 5 weeks.

Eggplant, peppers and leeks take 7+ weeks.

Sowing root vegetable seeds outdoors.

**Root vegetables such as carrots and radishes have to be planted outdoors and not started indoors.

So what are you waiting for?  Get a head start on the growing season by starting your vegetables indoors!

For more information on starting seeds indoors, check out this informative Birds & Blooms article.

Noelle Johnson
Noelle Johnson is a horticulturist, writer and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. She is the CEO and owner of 'AZ Plant Lady,' an education company that aims to help people garden successfully in the desert climate. She is the author of the book, Dry Climate Gardening, and her byline has appeared in publications such as Birds & Blooms and Phoenix Home & Garden magazine. She is an instructor at the Desert Botanical garden and Tucson Botanical Gardens.