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How to Build an Indoor Seed Starting Setup

Are you interested in starting a garden from seed? Creating an indoor seed starting setup is the first step!

A good system makes starting seeds easy and increases your chances of success. Whether you have a lot of space or only a little, this guide will help you create an indoor seed starting system that works for you.

I’ll show you what you need and give you some ideas to create the ideal seed starting setup for your space and budget.

Swiss chard seedling in an indoor seed starting setup.

Why Start Seeds Indoors

Starting seeds indoors has a lot of advantages. Once you have a good system set up, you can use it to start seeds repeatedly, year after year!

Get a Head Start on the Season

Starting seeds indoors is one of the best ways to enjoy a harvest as early as possible.

An indoor seed starting setup makes it possible to start seeds indoors weeks before the weather is right to plant outside. That means your plants will be ready to harvest weeks sooner than those planted outdoors.

Grow Plants that Take a Long Time

Certain crops like peppers take a long time to grow from seed to harvest. Other crops like brussels sprouts need a long time with just the right weather to grow and produce.

Pepper seedlings.
Pepper seedlings.

If you live in a zone with a short growing season, there just isn’t enough time to start some of these crops from seed outdoors.

But that doesn’t have to limit what you can grow! Starting seeds indoors gives you time to grow plants that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.


Starting plants from seed is much cheaper than buying starter plants. Seed packets are inexpensive and widely available both online and in stores. We love recommending the garden seeds selection at one of our favorite retailers, Hoss Tools.

Setting up an indoor seed starting system doesn’t have to break the bank either. There are good options in every price range so you can create an effective setup that works for your budget.

Better Selection

With so many unique and interesting varieties of seeds, your garden is limited only by your imagination!

Have you ever seen a Purple Vienna kohlrabi or Triamble pumpkin? You probably won’t find these varieties as starter plants at a nursery.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with classic garden staples like Straight Eight cucumbers or beefsteak tomatoes. These plants are popular for a reason, after all! But if you want to try new varieties, starting with seeds gives you many more options.

A Brussels sprout seedling.
A Brussels sprout seedling.

Garden Indoors

Did you know there are many plants you can grow from seed to harvest completely indoors? Indoor gardening has many benefits and can be done any time of the year.

An indoor seed starting setup is the perfect place to start growing an indoor garden.

What Seeds Need to Grow

Whether indoors or outdoors, seeds need certain things to grow. Understanding these needs helps you create an indoor seed starting setup that works.

A good system mimics outdoor conditions to provide everything your plants need to grow and thrive.


Seedlings under indoor grow lights.

Light is one of the most important things plants need to grow. Plants get a lot of their energy from light and need it to photosynthesize.

Getting enough light can be a challenge indoors. Grow lights offer a practical solution to this problem and are essential for most indoor seed starting systems.


Heat is also extremely important, but thankfully, it’s usually easy to provide. Indoor temperatures are often warm enough for starting seeds, so an additional heat source may not be necessary.

If your indoor seed starting setup is going to be in a cool room such as a basement, you may need to turn up the thermostat or provide some heat another way.


Good air circulation keeps plants healthy by reducing the risk of fungal disease.

Improve air circulation in your indoor seed starting setup by not crowding plants, rotating them regularly, or by using a fan. A ceiling fan, box fan, or pedestal fan all work well as part of an indoor seed starting system.


Plants get nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium from the soil where they’re planted. Indoor gardeners can provide the required nutrients through high-quality growing mediums and additional fertilizer.

Building an Indoor Seed Starting Setup

Creating an indoor seed starting setup is the first step in starting a garden from seed. Once you have a good system in place, you’ll be ready to pick out seeds and get growing!

This next section is all about how to build an indoor seed starting setup that works for your space and your budget.

A Place to Work

An indoor seed starting setup.

The first thing you need to do is choose a place for your indoor seed starting system. Ideally, you want a space out of the way but conveniently located. Seedlings need regular care, so you want your setup to be somewhere you can access it easily.

At the same time, the setup needs to stay in place for several weeks, so you don’t want it to be in the way of your regular life and activities.

Having an area in front of a large sunny window is a plus, but it’s not required.

Work Surface

You need something to set your plants and equipment on, like a seed starting rack or folding table.

Think about how much you want to grow to help you decide how big you want your indoor seed starting setup to be.

Once you know how much space you’ll need, think about what you already have that might work well. Do you have an empty set of shelves you’re not using? A folding table or two? A desk that could be cleared for a season?

If you don’t have a good work surface, purchasing a seed starting rack is a good way to maximize space.


Seedlings growing under indoor grow lights.

There are two different ways to provide light for seedlings indoors: sunlight or grow lights.

To use sunlight, you need a large south-facing window with plenty of direct sunlight. Indirect light isn’t enough.

Often, windows don’t let in enough direct sunlight for plants to thrive. In that case, grow lights are a must.

Grow lights come in all different shapes, sizes, and price ranges. When choosing a light, keep in mind how many plants you plan to grow. That will help you decide what size you need.

This grow light from Hoss is a personal favorite of mine. The quality and size are well worth the investment. For a more affordable option, this grow light from Amazon is also a good choice.


A heat mat for seed germination.

Seeds need the most heat right after they’re planted. Heat helps seeds germinate faster and improves overall germination rates. A heat mat is a good way to keep seedlings warm and speed up germination.

Humidity Domes are good for trapping heat. The plastic domes sit on top of seedling trays keeping heat and moisture in.

Before seeds sprout, plastic wrap is an inexpensive alternative to a humidity dome. After seeds sprout, remove the plastic wrap so the plants have room to grow.

Once they’ve sprouted, your house is probably warm enough for plants to grow. If you’re using a basement or other cool room for your indoor seed starting setup, you may want to turn up the thermostat or use a space heater.

Hand Tools

good shovel is important for scooping soil and repotting plants.

Gardening gloves keep your hands clean and protected.

Growing Medium

Potting mediums for an indoor seed starting setup.

Seed starting mix and potting soil are integral parts of a good indoor seed starting setup. These products are similar, but they serve different purposes, so it’s good to have both.

Seed starting mix is ideal for helping seeds germinate. The light and fluffy texture creates the perfect environment for seeds to sprout.

Potting soil has added nutrients to feed plants as they grow. It’s usually much thicker and heavier than seed starting mix.

SunGro Black Gold is my favorite seed starting mix. I’ve had great results with this product. Plants sprout reliably and grow well.

When seedlings are ready to move into potting soil, I like Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix. The soil has added fertilizer to keep plants healthy as they grow.

For more information on growing mediums, check out Seedling Soil: Everything you Need to Know.


Good potting soil has some nutrients, but there often isn’t enough for plants to reach their full potential. Seedling fertilizer gives plants added nutrients to help them thrive and grow into strong, healthy plants.

Organic fertilizers are recommended over chemical fertilizers at the seedling stage because they provide balanced nutrition and are less likely to burn tender young seedlings.

To give your seedlings a boost, use a slow-release fertilizer like Burpee Organic All-Purpose Plant Food.

Planting Containers

Seedlings in pots.

When it comes to containers for your indoor seed starting setup, there are several good options out there. You can start seeds in anything from seed starting trays, to small containers, and even egg cartons. Here are a few things you can use.

Seed starting trays come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. For starting a lot of crops, these 338-cell seed starting trays are a great way to maximize space. For a smaller garden, this set of 12-cell seed starting trays is a great option.

Small pots are good for starting seeds and for potting up as seedlings grow.

Biodegradable pots are ideal for plants that don’t like to be transplanted like squash, cucumbers, and melons. You can start these plants indoors without worrying about disturbing the roots when it comes time to plant them in the garden.

These seed starting pellets provide an all-in-one growing medium and planting container. They’re another good option for plants that don’t like having their roots disturbed.

To save money, you can even start seeds in egg cartons. This affordable option works great for germinating seeds. Keep in mind that plants outgrow egg cartons quickly and must be potted up to a larger container.

Drip Trays

As the name implies, bottom drip trays catch all the drips and keep your workspace cleaner. Many seed starting trays come with drip trays or bottom trays already.

If you’re using small pots, getting a drip tray is a good way to keep your plants organized and move them around easily.

Watering Tools

A spray bottle used to keep seed starting mix moist.

Watering seedlings regularly is a must to keep them happy and healthy.

A small spray bottle is ideal for watering freshly planted seeds and tiny seedlings. The fine spray moistens seeds and soil without displacing the seeds.

Watering cans are more practical for watering larger plants. This seedling watering can from Hoss is specially designed for watering plants on a shelf or under a grow light. The unique shape makes it easy to reach back corners or under grow lights without disturbing the plants.

Plant Labels

Last but not least, when you’re building an indoor seed starting setup, you’ll need plant labels! Many sprouts look alike, and it can be hard to tell young seedlings apart. To help you know which is which, use plant labels.

This set of colorful plant labels is ideal for small seed trays.

For larger plants, I love this set of garden labels from Hoss. The large size makes these labels easy to write on and read. The set includes a waterproof/sunproof outdoor marker that won’t fade outside in the elements.

Indoor Seed Starting Tips

A kohlrabi seedling in a biodegradable pot.

Creating an indoor seed starting setup isn’t a one size fits all process. You don’t need every single product on this list to have a successful system. Choose what works for you!

Make a Plan

Decide what you want to grow and determine when to start each plant. Our blog post on Creating a Seed Starting Calendar can help you there.

If you’re not sure what to grow, browsing online is a great place to start. In addition to Hoss Tools, True Leaf Market has a wide selection of seeds, including both unique and classic varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

Start Seeds at the Right Time

If you start seeds too early, they might get too big before it’s time to plant them outdoors.

If you start too late, the weather might not be right by the time seeds are ready to be planted outside.

Check your seed packet to see when the best time to start each variety is.

Try Something New

Once you have a good system for starting seeds indoors, there’s no limit to what you can grow! Why not try something new?

Time to Get Your Indoor Seed Starting Setup Ready

Cauliflower seedlings.

After putting your indoor seed starting setup in place, you’ll be ready to start those seeds!

For more information on growing healthy seedlings, make sure to visit the Seed Starting page on our website. You’ll find tips and tricks, how-to guides, and many more resources to help you along the way. At Minneopa Orchards, we’re passionate about helping you grow a successful garden, and we’re here for you every step of the way!