How to Start Seeds for Your Garden Indoors

Seedlings growing in containers

Seed Planting Materials

To start seeds indoors, you’ll need:

  • Containers: There are lots of choices for small containers to start your seeds. You can use pots, cell packs, trays, peat cups or pellets, or even eggshells to start seeds. I like to use commercial seed starting trays since they’re inexpensive, come with clear plastic covers, have a reservoir tray for watering from the bottom, and are divided into individual planting cells.
  • Starting medium used to plant seedlings

  • Starting Medium: Use a sterile, soilless seed starting mix made of peat, vermiculite, and perlite rather than garden soil. Commercial mixes are available, or you can mix your own.
  • Temperature: Most seeds germinate best in soil temperatures around 75° F (24° C). Special warming mats are available for starting seeds in cold sheds, or you can choose a warm spot in the house, such as a warm room, on top of the fridge, or a radiator.
  • Light: Unless you have a sunny greenhouse, indoor light isn’t bright enough for seeds. The solution is to hang a fluorescent light fixture equipped with full-spectrum (daylight) bulbs about 6” above the seed trays. Adjust the height of the fixture as the plants grow. The lights will need to be on 14-16 hours a day, so a timer comes in handy.
  • Fertilizer: Once your seedlings are growing, they’ll benefit from a mild fertilizer. Fish emulsion is a popular choice, or use a balanced liquid organic fertilizer mixed at half strength.

Seed Starting Planting Steps

Read on for a step-by-step guide to planting seeds indoors.


  1. I enjoyed the article, “How to start vegetable seeds indoors”. I have several fluorescent lights in my house that I thought I would use but you do mention that you need full-spectrum (daylight) bulbs. I take it, these bulbs are different that everyday fluorescent bulbs and to be effective the full-spectrum bulbs are necessary.


    Tom McGibbon

    • Hi, Randy, features home improvement advice from the nationally syndicated TV show “Today’s Homeowner” and its experts.
      We don’t sell gardening products on this website, but we encourage checking your local home center or nursery.
      Good luck!

  2. Please let me read the article with out all these ads…yes I understand you want to make money but I will not be back … what I read was good. It is a shame.

    • Hi, Bill!
      We recommend scanning your computer with anti-spyware and anti-virus software.
      Seeing too many ads could mean your system is compromised and sending fraudulent ads to appear on our website.
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