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17 Seed Starting Tips to Get You Started Growing

Are you planning to start a garden from seed this year? Starting seeds indoors has a lot of advantages and it can be really fun too. Seeds are inexpensive and you can get a head start on the growing season by starting them indoors weeks before it’s warm enough to plant outside.

The process can sometimes be confusing, though, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience growing from seed. If you’re looking for seed starting tips to get your garden off to a great start, this list is for you.

Even if you’re an experienced gardener, I bet you’ll find some new seed planting tips you can put to use this year!

We've got seed starting tips to help you grow healthy seedlings.

Seed Starting Tips For Getting Started

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, these tips can help you get your garden off to a great start!

1. Make a Plan

Making a plan is one of the first steps to having a successful garden. What do you want to grow, and where are you going to put it?

A gardener writing in a planner. Having a plan is a seed starting tip
Planning is a great seed starting tip.

It’s possible to start a garden with virtually any amount of space. An inground garden, raised bed, patio containers, or even indoors all work. Just make sure to choose plants that work with the space you have.

Crops like watermelon and pumpkin need a lot of space while things like herbs are more compact and grow well in small containers.

If you’re not sure where to start, browse seeds online to get an idea of what you’d like to grow. Hoss has a wide selection of high-quality seeds to choose from.

2. Start Seeds at the Right Time

The front and back of a packet of cucumber seeds from Hoss Tools.

Once you decide what you’re going to grow, you may be tempted to get started right away. Before you do, make sure you know when is the best time to plant each seed.

Starting seeds at the correct time means your plants will be the perfect size when it’s time to move them outside. If you start too early, you could end up with plants that outgrow their indoor space before it’s time to move them outside.

Look at the back of your seed packets to see when you should start each plant. The right time will vary depending on where you live, the weather, and what plants you choose.

3. Know Your Zone

Do you know what USDA hardiness zone you live in? Your zone plays a big part in determining what crops grow well in your area and when you can plant them. The backs of many seed packets reference USDA hardiness zones so it’s good to know what yours is.

If you don’t know your zone, you can find it online. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is color coded and easy to use. Just type in your zip code to figure out which zone you’re in.

4. Invest in Good Equipment

A seed starting setup with grow lights , racks, and seedlings pots

Good seed starting equipment is well worth the investment. High-quality equipment makes your life easier and lasts a long time! Seed starting tips that make your life easier are some of the best tips out there.

The cost of equipment can add up but there are good products in every price range. Take a look at How to Build an Indoor Seed Starting Set Up for some suggestions of good products at different price points.

If you can’t afford to buy all the equipment you’d like to this year, choose a few things to start with and add to your collection next year.

There are also many ways to save money, like starting seeds in egg cartons.

Seed Germination Tips

A corn kernel germinating in soil.

This next section of seed starting tips is all about germination.

5. Soak Seeds to Speed up Germination

In nature, seeds are vulnerable to the elements. Because of this, they have a protective barrier that helps preserve them before it’s time for them to grow.

Soaking seeds for a short time before planting works to break down the barrier around the seeds so they’ll germinate faster.

To soak seeds, choose a small container and drop your seeds in. Add warm water to the container and leave seeds to soak for 12-24 hours. Remove the seeds from the water and set them on a paper towel. Once you take the seeds out of the water, they’re ready to plant right away.

6. Use Seed Starting Mix

A bag of seed starting mix sold by Hoss Tools.

If you only follow one of these seed starting tips, it should be this one!

Seed starting mix is the best growing medium for starting seeds indoors. It’s specially designed to nourish young seedlings and provide an ideal environment for germination.

Garden soil can harbor diseases that damage seedlings. Potting soil is chunky and often has added fertilizer that can burn young seedlings. Neither of these is the best option for starting seeds indoors.

A true seed starting mix is best. To learn more about seed starting mediums, check out Seedling Soil: Everything you need to know.

7. Water the Mix Before Planting Seeds

Seeds require moisture to germinate. If your seed starting mix is dry, premoistening helps ensure the mixture is evenly moist before you plant seeds.

You can add water after planting seeds, but premoistening is an easier way to make sure that the mix is thoroughly moist.

8. Keep it Warm

A seed starting tray with a humidity dome over it on a heat mat.

Seeds germinate faster in warm soil. Put a heat mat under your seed containers to increase the temperature of your seed starting medium.

This seed starting tip is especially helpful if you keep your house on the cooler side. Place seedlings in front of a sunny window to increase the temperature even more.

humidity dome on top of your seed tray helps maintain a warm temperature, especially when placed in a sunny window.

Tips to Keep Seedlings Healthy

Closeup of newly sprouted seedlings.

Once your seeds sprout, they need the right care to stay healthy and grow strong. These seed starting tips are all about maintaining healthy plants once they sprout!

9. Ensure Good Drainage

Seedlings need good drainage in order to grow well and avoid problems. Soggy soil can kill young plants or lead to other problems like mold.

You want extra water to be able to drain out of the bottom of your containers.

Most seed trays have pre-drilled drainage holes in the bottom. If the containers you’re using don’t have holes, make sure to add some!

10. Ensure Good Air Circulation

Good air circulation is another way you can keep seedlings and soil from staying too wet. Air circulation allows excess moisture to evaporate and move away from plants.

Continually damp plants create a breeding ground for fungal disease. To improve air circulation, spread your plants out and turn the trays regularly.

Fans are also a good way to improve circulation. In the next seed starting tip, you’ll see another reason to use a fan!

11. Keep Seedlings Moist

A woman spraying seeds in seed starter pots.

Seeds need to stay moist in order to germinate and young seedlings need water in order to grow.

Water frequently with a spray bottle or watering can to keep the soil nice and moist.

It’s possible to go too far and overwater. As I said above, soggy soil is harmful to plants. Your growing medium should be moist but not soggy.

Some of these seed starting tips might seem complicated, especially if you’re a beginner, but I’m here to make things easy for you! If you’re not sure how to tell if the seed starting mix is properly moist or overly soggy, think of it like a sponge.

Properly moistened soil should be like a sponge that has been wrung out. It’s wet all over, but water doesn’t leak out when you squeeze it. Soggy soil, on the other hand, drips if you squeeze it.

12. Use a Fan to Strengthen Seedlings

Indoor plants are protected from the natural elements outdoors. Outside, young plants have to stand up to all the things mother nature can throw at them like wind, rain, and changing temperatures.

Using a fan is a simple way to simulate wind giving your seedlings a small taste of outdoor conditions. Aim a small fan at your seedlings and turn it on low. We don’t need to simulate hurricane-force winds here! A gentle breeze will do. Let it blow on your seedlings for a few hours a day.

13. Make Sure Seedlings Get Enough Light

Seedlings under a grow light. Seed starting tips include caring for seedlings.

Light is one of the most important things young seedlings need. Plenty of direct light is essential for them to grow and develop. A sunny window often isn’t enough, especially for plants that like full sun.

Use a grow light to ensure your seedlings have plenty of light to grow.

14. Harden off Seedlings Before Transplanting

As I mentioned in an earlier seed starting tip, plants started indoors are protected from harsh conditions outside. Planting these pampered seedlings outside without warning can easily shock plants.

Get plants used to the conditions outside slowly by hardening them off for several days before you transplant seedlings outside.

Extra Tips for Starting Seeds

Here are a few bonus seed starting tips for you!

15. Don’t Plant too Many Seeds

It may be tempting to plant the whole packet, but the truth is you probably don’t need that many seeds. Crowded plants won’t be as healthy or grow as well. Plant a few seeds in each cell of your seed starting container then thin them to the strongest seedling.

Save the extra seeds for next year’s garden, or share some with a friend.

16. Label Everything

A seed starter tray with plant labels of the different herb seeds.

This is one of those seed starting tips I had to learn the hard way.

More than once I’ve been guilty of thinking I’ll remember what I planted in each container and then forgetting. Oops!

Some plants look similar, especially when they’re small. To avoid mixing up cauliflower and brussels sprouts or pumpkins and zucchini, label your containers when you plant the seeds or make a chart!

If you go with a chart, mark a corner of your container so you know which side is which.

These little plastic labels from Amazon come in a variety of colors. They’re the perfect size for labeling small seedling trays.

These garden labels from Hoss are big and easy to write on and read. They work great for labeling larger plants. The set comes with a waterproof marker that won’t fade in the sun or rain outdoors.

17. Don’t be Afraid to Let Go of Seedlings

Person thinning radish seedlings.

I have one last seed starting tip for you. Are you ready for it? Keep only the best and healthiest plants to transfer to your garden.

One of the advantages of seed starting rather than direct sowing plants is that you have time to see which plants are the strongest. Choose these to plant in your garden and let the rest go.

I know it can be such a bummer to let extra plants die, especially if they’re healthy. If you don’t want to throw away your extra plants, consider passing them on to friends or neighbors.

Putting Seed Starting Tips to Use

Closeup of a starter tray of cucumber seedlings.

Now that you’ve learned some great seed starting tips, it’s time to put them to use! What crops are you planning to grow this year?

For more tips to help with your garden, check out our Seed Starting page. We’ve put together a ton of resources for starting a garden from seed. Whether you want to grow vegetables, herbs, or flowers, you’ll find how-to guides, tips, tricks, and product recommendations to get your garden off to a great start.