Seed Starting Indoors From Start To Finish

5 comments by Halley -Author at MIGardener

We have all been waiting for this moment, some of us much longer than others! Nonetheless, here at MIgardener, we are very excited to give you our finest seed starting tips. These tips will help you prepare your best crop to date! 

Starting from seeds is the most cost-effective way to garden. If this is your first year starting from seed, a few one-time purchases will need to be made on seed starting materials. Reusable starting containers, lights, and shelves may be necessary, depending on the setup you are going for. Purchasing seeds gives you the opportunity for multiple plants per packet, where a starter plant will only give you one season of harvest. Seeds can also be saved for multiple years, and if you buy heirloom varieties, you can harvest new seeds from your plants each season. If you are successful with your seed starting but run out of room in the garden, selling leftover plant starts is a great way to make some money back!

A cost-effective seed starting mix can be found here; it is much handier to make your own seed starting mix than to buy it from a store.


seed starting trays

Seed starting trays or plug trays are essential for at-home seed starting. Some varieties need more soil to start properly; some cells are too small for these varieties. Delicate varieties cannot handle the transition to a bigger cell or will grow out of smaller ones much faster than others. Varieties like tomatoes, beans, squash, and peppers are recommended for larger plugs. Other varieties are not affected as much by transfers and can succeed in smaller trays. Choosing tray sizing depending on the plant will make for a much bigger garden in the long run. 2.5-4inch pots are normally recommended depending on the size of each plant.

Grow lights will be required if varieties don't get enough natural light. The lumens level will tell you how bright the bulbs will be, and the Kalvin level will tell you where the light falls on the yellow to blue scale. The higher the Kalvin number, the further from the plants they can be. Consider which length and width of grow light will be the best for your setup. In the realm of heat, peppers started indoors may require heating mats. Heating mats are essential for getting pepper seeds to germinate. Once they are germinated, you can remove the heating pad.

Seed Starting Mix

seed starting mix

The perfect seed starting medium can be found in stores or made at home. Making your own mix at home will be the most cost-efficient way to start. Upfront, the ingredients may seem more expensive, but they will last longer over time. Peat moss or coco coir, perlite, and vermiculite are the three best ingredients to add to an at-home mix. Sift them together to create the best texture. To learn how to mix your own seed starter, check out this video. We recommend finding a compostable or reusable label like popsicle sticks or wooden coffee stirrers to mark your seeds. Wax pencils or garden permanent markers are the best options to combat fading in the garden.

The Best Time To Start Seeds 

On Clyde's Garden planner and the Farmers Almanac, finding your last frost date easy as pie. The last frost date is your guide for how many weeks in advance you should start your seeds indoors. Planting varieties out after the last frost will give you the best results for your garden. There should be instructions for when is the best time to start them or what temperature each plant will need to thrive on the back of your seed packets. Plan your garden early to map out the best plan. Buy a calendar and designate it specifically to your seed starting schedule. Normally onions, peppers, and tomatoes are started first, while other varieties won't last as long. Tip: Most root vegetables should not be started indoors. These varieties do very poorly if transplanted because any disruption of the soil will damage their root structure.

Building Your Seedlings  

When the glorious time finally comes to start your seeds, make sure to pre-moisten your seed starting mix. Mist the mix with a water bottle to help the soil retain water over time. Once your starting pods are filled with soil, it's time to plant each seed! Plant each seed twice as deep as it is wide. For example, if your seed is 1cm wide, the plant is 2cm deep in the soil! Because the seeds are so new, it's important to get watering right to avoid damaging them. Bottom watering promoted root growth, decreased the chances of fungus growth on your starters, and won't damage the delicate seedlings. Once your plants grow their first true leaves, it is time to transplant them to a bigger pot or into the garden, depending on your growing schedule. This is the point in the process where you apply the first round of fertilizer. Potting soil or compost is the best growing medium to transplant into.

Final Seed Starting Steps 

As your seedlings grow, be sure to maintain consistent moisture for them to germinate. Place grow lights 2-3 inches above your seedlings to avoid leggy growing. Raise the lights as the plants grow higher. The temperature surrounding your seedlings should be between 68-72°F. Ad an oscillating fan to encourage hardy growth and make the hardening off process easier. Introducing your start to the outdoor climate should happen in small time frames that build until your starter is ready to stay outside full time. First, set your starters in the shade and gradually introduce them to sunlight to prevent burning. For more details on hardening off your seedlings, click here. Once your starts are ready to transplant, water them in well.

There is nothing more empowering than starting your produce from seed. Once you understand the process, it's hard to go back. The amount of money saved on produce every season becomes exponentially beneficial, and you can only get better at it! Each seed can produce so much food for you and your family. Additionally, one plant can produce so many seeds for a continuous cycle of bounty! If you found this post helpful, please save it and share it with others in your life.

– Kaitlynn from MIgardener


Did you enjoy this post? MIgardener is passionate about sharing free gardening tips and information! If you are looking for inspiration in the garden, make sure to check out our Pinterest page. Check us out at or on youtubeInstagram, and Facebook.


  • Anita

    I started my butternut squash seedlings too early. They are outgrowing their pots. Can I put them in larger pots and then transplant outside in 5 weeks? I’m in Michigan. Maybe I need to throw away and start over in a couple of weeks? Thank you.

  • Teresa Adams

    Should you use boiling water to wet your seed starting mix? I read that it will kill fungus gnat larvae that might be dormant in the peatmoss.

    I love this article . Can I print it all in one sheet of paper for future references?


    I love this article . Can I print it all in one sheet of paper for future references?


  • stephen byrne

    Hello team at MIGardener.

    Thank you so much for all you do, media-wise and product-wise.

    And this post as well, very helpful.

    I’ve just a question for you if you do not mind and have the time.

    I get buying a seed starter, putting seeds in etc. But, would it be better to start with potting mix? Or, do you start your seed in a small container, wait for it to sprout then always transfer it into a pot with potting mix, then into the garden?

    Does planting straight from the seed starting mix into the garden lead to failure since the seed starting mix has no nutrients?

    Also, buying a seed starting mix, is it true to avoid Miacrel Gro?

    I hope I’m not asking too much and you get what I’m saying.

    Thank you so much.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published