21 Common Seed Starting Questions From First Time Gardeners

With summer right around the corner, many people consider planting their own garden to grow and nurture during the warmer months. While many plants can be bought in stores, it can be just as fun, if not more rewarding, and certainly cheaper to plant your seeds from scratch and grow them yourself.

Starting Seeds

Planting seeds can be tricky, even the tiniest mistake can result in the loss of your entire seed. Therefore, it is advisable to obtain answers to any lingering doubts before planting your seedlings. After all, without these specific requirements, your seedlings will struggle to grow and thrive. For example, depending on the sort of seeds you’re sowing, you could require a certain soil, seed tray, or grow light. 

Continue reading to find answers to the 21 most common seedling questions from first-time gardeners, including soil types, light and water requirements, germination times and more

What Soil Should I Start My Seeds in?

Seeds should be planted in seedling-specific potting soil. These combinations will be rich in the nutrients that your seeds require to sprout and begin growing. Do not reuse potting soil from your houseplants or utilize dirt from your garden. Always start seeds in soil that is considered fresh and sterile to ensure healthy, disease-free seedlings.

You can also use a bucket or tub to wet the planting mix before filling your containers. The idea is to make it moist without making it soggy or crumbly. Then fill the containers with soil and pack it firmly to eliminate gaps.

When Should I Start My Seeds Indoors?

Plant most of your seeds around six weeks before the latest frost date in your location. That might be tricky to figure out, especially if you’re new to gardening. 

For information on how deep to plant your seeds, consult the seed box. Some smaller seeds might need to be spread on top of the soil. Larger seeds will need to be buried. Make a few divots in each pot to make a place for the seeds.

Do I Need a Grow Light?

To mature into strong, healthy plants, seedlings require a lot of light. Regardless of what anybody tells you, there’s a good possibility you don’t have enough natural light in your house to grow healthy seedlings. Even a south-facing window isn’t always enough. Therefore, artificial light can be used to provide the correct quantity of light for seedlings. 

To accomplish this, you’ll need grow lights that are specifically made for plants. Purchase huge fluorescent shop lights with one warm and one cold bulb for a more cost-effective alternative.

Suspend your grow lights from chains so that you may raise them as the seedlings grow. Then, position the lights as near to the seedlings as possible without touching them.

Which Grow Lights Do I Need?

A fluorescent grow light or LED lamp is typically the ideal choice for the ordinary home gardener growing seedlings indoors to guarantee that your plants get the quality, intensity, and length of light they require to stay in optimum condition.

Barrina LED Grow Light, 144W(6 x 24W, 800W Equivalent), 2ft T8, Full Spectrum, High Output, Linkable Design, T8 Integrated Bulb+Fixture, Plant Lights for Indoor Plants, 6-Pack
  • Full Spectrum - Barrina LED grow light provides sufficient light for indoor...
  • Updated Plant Light Chips- Compare with the lamp consisting of only "blue chips"...
  • Reflector Design and Low Consumption - Consume only 144W with 576 LEDs totally,...

Last update on 2024-06-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs offer a balance of cold and warm light that closely resembles the natural solar spectrum, although they are less energy-efficient and emit more heat than other fluorescent lights. However, because these bulbs generate a wider variety of light wavelengths, they are a suitable choice for developing seedlings.

How Close Do Grow Lights Need to Be to The Seedlings?

Varied seedlings will require different levels of light intensity. Nonetheless, your seedlings’ should be placed approximately 2 to 4 inches away from your intended light source.

However, note that the wattage of the bulb and the distance between the plant and the light source dictate the intensity of light that a plant gets. A brighter bulb placed farther away from the plant, for example, may produce the same amount of light as a dimmer bulb placed closer to the plant.

How Many Hours of Light Do You Need for Seed Starting?

When it comes to planting seeds and developing plants indoors, the number of hours of supplementary light that is appropriate is still up for dispute. Most fruit, vegetables, and garden plants need at least 16 to 18 hours of sunshine every day or else they will become pale and droopy.

Some gardeners, however, maintain that cultivating seedlings with 24 hours of constant light every day produces greater results. After all, it’s far more convenient to leave your grow lights on all the time.

Which Seed Starting Trays Should I Buy / How Many Cells?

Among market gardeners, the 72 Cell trays are the most popular. Overall, 72 cell trays provide a decent combination of growing room and seedlings per tray. The tray’s cells are 1.5″ square and 2.25″ deep, making them a great choice for a wide range of plants. These plastic trays are also suitable for growing vine plants.

AIFUSI 10 Pack Seed Starter Kit, 72 Cell Seedling Trays Gardening Germination Plastic Tray Nursery Pots Mini Propagator Plant Grow Kit Plug Tray Starting Trays for Seedling Germination
  • ๐ŸŒฑใ€๐—ง๐—ถ๐—ฝ๐˜€ใ€‘- These plant seed starter trays is suitable for...
  • ๐ŸŒฟใ€๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐˜‚๐˜€๐—ฎ๐—ฏ๐—น๐—ฒ & ๐—ฆ๐—ฎ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ...
  • ๐Ÿฅ•ใ€๐—š๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ ๐—ฆ๐—ฎ๐—ฝ๐—น๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด๐˜€ &...

Last update on 2024-06-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Do I Need a Plastic Dome Over My Seeds / When Can I Remove It?

Seeds do not require a humidity dome to sprout. Generally, they will germinate with or without one. Nonetheless, a humidity dome will aid in the germination of your seedlings. It will also cut down on the time and work required to keep seed germination soil wet.

However, remember to remove the plastic humidity dome once your seeds have germinated. Domes are only required on the trays until the seeds germinate, which can take as little as a few days for certain types. Your plants will require a lot of air and light after they have sprouted. 

Note that domes can destroy seedlings if they are left on for too long.

Should I Start All Seeds Indoors?

Any and all seeds can be started indoors. There are several advantages to starting seeds indoors, including an early harvest. While certain crops may be directly sown, others can be started inside and harvested earlier. Growing long-season crops in short-season settings is another advantage of beginning seeds inside.

Burying seeds in the soil outside is another method for growing plants. The practice of planting seeds in this manner is known as direct sowing, and it is a simple one that can also provide good results.

Should You Soak Seeds Before Planting?

Soaking seeds before planting them offers your plants a head start at the outset of their lives. When you soak a seed, the water softens the seed shell while also providing moisture to the seed inside. Seeds and the plants that develop inside them utilize the moisture to grow and push out new growth once they’ve been drenched.

However, not all seeds will benefit from being soaked. For example, moisture and darkness are required by some seeds, such as violas. Some seeds are also too little to soak and will fall apart. After all, each seed is unique, but don’t worry! You can find out what the best conditions are for your seeds by doing some research.

How Many Seeds Should You Plant in Each Hole?

In general, two to three seeds per hole should be placed. Since seeds do not have a 100% germination rate, not every seed sown will germinate. Overseeding holes, cells, or pots will guarantee that the desired number of plants grows and produces results. However, no more than three seeds should be placed in each hole.

If more than one seed germinates, snip off any excess once the plant pops through the soil line. This thinning prevents any damage to the seedling roots of the plants that will continue to grow.

The New Seed-Starters Handbook (Rodale Organic Gardening)
  • Bubel, Nancy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 464 Pages - 01/30/2018 (Publication Date) - Rodale Books (Publisher)

Last update on 2024-06-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

How Deep Should You Plant Seeds?

As a general rule, seeds should be planted at a depth twice their width. As a result, a seed that is about 1/16 inch thick, for example, should be planted around 1/8 inch deep. Large bean seeds, which can be up to 1/2 inch wide, may necessitate an inch of planting depth.

However, note that some seeds can also thrive in a shallower environment. For example, some seeds, like Lettuces or Snapdragon, require sunshine to sprout and should not be covered at all. If confused as to how deep you should be planting your seeds, consult the package they arrived in. This should indicate the exact depth at which those plants thrive. 

Should You Water Seeds Right After Planting?

Water the soil carefully before planting seeds inside in a seed tray so that it is damp but not soggy. Then, following the directions that came with the seeds, sow the seeds. You won’t have to water them once they’ve been planted, and seed movement will be prevented.

However, after the seeds have sprouted, you must water them every day. Seedlings, unlike mature plants, do not have a large root system to rely on for moisture. At the same time, avoid overwatering and allowing seedlings to sit in water.

How Often Should I Water My Seeds?

Seeds should be irrigated at a rate to keep the soil moist and prevent it from drying out. You may need to water more than once every day in really hot conditions. Make sure your seeds or seedlings have sufficient water by checking on them periodically.

Seeds germinate in three weeks or less in most cases. As a consequence, keep the mixture moist but not dripping wet. Seedlings should also be watered in the same way, depending on how much light and heat they receive.

What Is the Best Way to Water Seeds and Seedlings?

The best approach to water your seedlings is with a mister or a very mild spray bottle. Unfortunately, using a watering can might upset a fragile seedling and can make it easier to overwater and kill the plant. It’s also worth noting that watering from above, even with a spray bottle, is likely to knock over the delicate seedling.

When it comes to soil moisture, seedlings should be maintained damp but not wet, and should never be allowed to fully dry out. This usually equates to watering your seedlings’ soil at least once a day, if not more frequently. Therefore, the best way to water your seedlings and keep the soil moist is by using a spray bottle.

How Long Does It Take Seeds to Germinate and Pop Through the Soil?

Most seeds germinate in approximately two weeks, however, some seeds might take considerably longer. When sown under the correct conditions, seeds should sprout and flourish within a month of sowing. If you don’t see sprouts, you’ll need to figure out why.

Since the temperature has a big impact on seed germination, vegetable growers should stick to seasonal planting schedules for the best results. Failure to deliver the proper temperature does not guarantee that a seed will germinate, but it significantly reduces the odds.

Light, notably white and red-spectrum wavelength photons, is also required for seed germination.

What Causes Mold on Seedling Soil / What Can I Do About It?

The majority of seedling mold is caused by overwatering. In order to avoid this problem, water just when the seedlings require it. It’s easy to fall into the habit of watering them once a day or so, but this can occasionally cause more harm than good.

The good news is that your seedlings will not be killed by the mold. It is, however, a clear indicator that something else is amiss, and it must be rectified as soon as possible since the mold that grows in your seed trays is what might eventually destroy them.

Cinnamon is used by some gardeners as a natural antifungal. Simply wipe the mold away and sprinkle the affected area with cinnamon from your spice cabinet. If cinnamon doesn’t work, try a fungal spray for houseplants or a DIY baking soda and water solution.

Organic Neem Oil Spray - Pre-Mixed, Cold Pressed Neem Oil for Plants - Natural Leaf Shine - All Organic, Ready to Use Neem Oil Spray for Indoor Plants and Outdoor Gardening (32 oz)
  • 100% ORGANIC - Our ready to use neem oil spray contains only organic ingredients...
  • READY MIXED - This neem oil for plants spray comes already pre-mixed in a...
  • NATURAL LEAF SHINE - Safely removes dust and dirt buildup from the leaf's...

Last update on 2024-06-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

How Do I Keep Gnats Off My Seedlings?

When a plant is overwatered, the roots begin to decay and spread throughout the soil. Fungus gnats are attracted to damp surroundings, so if your plant exhibits root rot signs, there’s a strong possibility you’re dealing with fungus gnats.

Chamomile and cinnamon are natural fungicides that destroy the gnats’ major food supply, rendering the soil uninhabitable. Cinnamon can also be used to kill whiteflies, spider mites, and other pests that are widespread in greenhouses. Simply sprinkle cinnamon on the soil surrounding the plants as a remedy.

Check out this article for more information: How to Prevent and Get Rid of Fungus Gnats on Seedlings

When Do I Start Hardening Off My Seedlings for Transplant?

Before transplanting, seedlings should be hardened off, well-fed, and hydrated, with hardening taking place seven to fifteen days before transplantation.

On warm days, the best approach to harden transplants is to leave them outside in a shady, sheltered area and bring them inside at night. Increase the amount of sunlight the transplants receive every day. However, note that on windy days or when temps are below 45ยฐ F, don’t place sensitive seedlings outside.

Prepare a weed-free surface once your seedlings have hardened. Till or hoe the garden soil to loosen and aerate it. After that, dig a hole big enough for your seedling and transplant it.

When Do I Transplant My Seedlings to The Outdoor Garden?

Three weeks after sprouting or when you have 1-2 sets of genuine leaves is the best time to transfer your seedlings. Plant-enthusiasts can also transfer their early bloomer in the fall if it is exceptionally hardy. Move summer-blooming beauties in the fall as well. Generally speaking, the summer is the worst time to transfer plants.

When transplanting, choose the coldest portion of the day, preferably early morning, or late afternoon, to limit transplant shock to a minimum. 

What Do I Do to Protect My Plants If There Is a Late Frost?

Cover plants with row cover, sheets, towels, blankets, cardboard, or a tarp to protect them from late-winter temperatures. Baskets, coolers, and any other container with a solid bottom can also be inverted over plants.

Last update on 2024-06-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Covering a plant before nightfall to lock in the warmer air is the greatest approach to protect it against a late frost. Peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and basil are just a few of the plants that may continue to produce and flourish if they are sheltered from frost. However, in the spring, other vulnerable plants will need to be replanted.

Final Thoughts

Growing a garden starting from seed can be challenging but very rewarding. Even experienced gardeners struggle at times with growing plants from seed so don’t be discouraged even if you have a few failures.

The money you can save by growing from seed and the knowledge and experience you will acquire along the journey will make the effort well worth it. Hopefully, many of your questions were answered here in order for you to be successful. Happy Planting!


  • User Avatar

    Author, blogger, podcaster, homesteading and permaculture enthusiast. I have a passion for sharing what I learn and helping others on their journey. If you're looking for me, you'll usually find me in the garden.

    View all posts