How to start seeds indoors — growing tips on when to plant seeds, which kinds of vegetables can be started indoors, and what materials to use. If I can grow them, anyone can!
So, it finally happened: my time as a notorious plant killer might finally be at an end — because I finally started my first vegetable garden! I planted seeds, grew them in a little greenhouse, and am ready to transplant them outside.
Buying these seeds was as though I’m re-learning things I thought I knew about myself. I mean, me?? The person who once killed every plant she even glanced at, is now putting real dollars into the ground — and expecting to eat from that investment??
My former self is laughing in disbelief, I can promise you that.
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Why start an indoor greenhouse?
In all honesty, this project doesn’t really belong to me — the ownership kinda belongs to K. He has been asking me for more than a year to find a space in the backyard for a small vegetable garden, and I agreed to put one next to the soon-to-be-built shed (more updates on that coming soon, but there are a lot of photos to comb through!). As we planned, he ordered the seeds and we chose to start more than half of them indoors using a pre-made greenhouse kit.
The benefit of using one of these greenhouses is that it comes ready-built for proper seed germination. There is very little guesswork (scroll down for steps). And, for my first garden, it helped that we could get the seeds started earlier than waiting for the outdoor weather to cooperate. It was easier to monitor growth and really got me excited during the last few weeks of cold weather for spring!
When to start seeds indoors
Even though indoor seeds could be started well before it warmed up outside, I still had to time things just right. K has plenty of experience with home gardens, but if you don’t have an expert at your side like I did, the Farmer’s Almanac has a handy chart page based on your area that helps clear things up a lot!
Seeds to avoid starting indoors
If you clicked on that link above, you might have seen a few blank spots in the Indoor Seeds column. While the majority of the seeds I ordered can be started indoors (a variety of tomatoes, peppers, and herbs), there were a few left out of the greenhouse on purpose. We set aside the cucumbers*, onions, and carrots to be planted outdoors instead. As it turns out, there are a number of seeds you should look to plant directly outside and skip the indoor step:
beans, beets, carrots, corn, okra, onions, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach, turnips
(I put an asterisk * on the cucumbers since even though it’s okay to start as a seedling indoors, we chose to plant outdoors only.)
The whole thing is actually pretty cool
We bought one large greenhouse kit for all the veggies and a smaller one for herbs (thinking I would plant just a few at my kitchen window). Each contained a plastic tray, lid, and peat pellets that expand to hold seeds.
This next part is really fun: it comes to life simply by adding warm water (we used a measuring cup to add the amount specified on the packaging). You can see below how it looks before vs. after adding water.
Excuse the crappy nighttime carpet photos. I genuinely did not think this would be an interesting part to capture and realized that mistake a little too late!
The water is soaked up in mere seconds by the peat pellets. I did the dirty work of breaking open the top of each pod to expose more dirt, while K did the majority of the planting (mainly because he was a perfectionist who did not at all appreciate my artistic interpretation of making sure seeds were planted at the correct depth). Pssh, experts. Amirite?
Since I’ve had furniture kind of scattered all over the place thanks to the guest bedroom remodel, the old bench I had in the entryway was upstairs. It just so happened to be the perfect height to sit in the master bedroom hallway; right under the windowsill, where it could get lots of sun.
It took such little time to see the first few sprouts — just a few days, I think. I practically blinked, and they began peeking through the soil.
Before long, they were everywhere!
I tried to take a few more shots each day as I found mew seedlings pop up. The peppers were the first to peek through, but the tomatoes quickly caught up. The dill and basil snuck in there when I wasn’t looking.
My plan was to wait until I started seeing more seedlings come in, then build new garden beds. (Finally, a task I know more about!) I procrastinated as long as I could so I could concentrate on other indoor projects.
Tomatoes, peppers, and dill — oh my!
When to transplant the seedlings
As you can see from the pictures, lots of the seedlings were growing like crazy. It was enough so that the roots were starting to peek out from the pellets on the sides and bottom.
So, if the rapid growth of their stems wasn’t enough of an indicator that I needed to hurry and build the new vegetable garden beds… those roots certainly were! I rushed through this build, but I will have details for you in a separate tutorial.
Want a video sneak peek? Here you go!
I still have to plant the outdoor seeds yet and build a separate trellis bed so the cucumbers don’t choke out the other plants, but I’ll be sharing that soon! I’ve got an idea for how I want that to look right next to this L-shaped bed. Hopefully constructing and finishing planting by this weekend.
Are any of you growing your own garden this year? Any other first-timers like me? What are you planting?