Nothing is quite as rewarding as planting an entire garden from scratch. Watching your seedlings begin to sprout and grow after all your hard work can be an incredibly rewarding experience. However, you may be unsure about where to start, or worried that you’ll accidentally kill all your seedlings before they have a chance. Fear not: we have compiled a list of 10 tips to help guide you through the germination process. From starting your seedlings indoors, to actually placing your seeds in the soil, we have all the best tips for germinating seeds.
Young seedlings growing indoors in a germination station. This is a very effective method for germinating seeds.
Tip #1: Decide whether to start indoors or outdoors
Pictured here is a greenhouse with various plants growing in it. Starting plants indoors or in a greenhouse is a good way to ensure that your seedlings get a good start.
The first step to the germinating process is to decide where to start your seeds. Depending on what kind of plant you want to grow, some flowers are better off being cared for indoors prior to being brought outside. Other plants are much more hardy, and will thrive even if you just toss them into your garden soil and leave them to their own devices.
If you plan to directly plant your seeds into the soil, you will need to ensure that your garden is properly prepped in the fall. Adequately fertilize and turn the soil so that it’s ready for the seeds in the spring.
If you plan to begin germinating your plants indoors, you should research which method works best for both you and your plants. There are multiple ways to start plants indoors, which we delve into further below.
If you’re a beginner and you’d like the germinating process to be quick and painless, you can choose to plant flowers that grow fast from seed.
Tip #2: Make sure to choose the right time
Frost forming on flowers in a garden. It’s important to keep track of frost warnings to make sure that you do not expose your seedlings to frost.
Another crucial factor in seed germination is making sure that you get the timing right throughout the process. Whether you choose to start your seeds indoors or outdoors, you need to make sure that your seeds are growing within the right timelines.
If you start your seeds indoors too early, you may be forced to keep them inside longer than what is ideal. If you plant them too late, you may risk transporting them to the soil too late in the season. This could affect overall growth, health, and flowering.
Planting seeds or transporting sprouts into soil too early in the spring also creates a risk for frost damage. Make sure to always research the frost resistance of a plant before planting it so that you can avoid any frost related disasters. If you are directly planting your seeds into the soil, you can use protective frost sheets to keep them insulated as they grow.
If you’re worried about frost potentially damaging your plants, there are plenty of methods available to protect them.
Tip #3: Choose the right germination method
Pictured here are young seedlings beginning to sprout. Choosing the right germination method is the key to ensuring that your plants have a good start at life.
A crucial step to germination is choosing a method that works best for you and your flowers.
First things first, it may be wise to look up whether or not your seeds need to be soaked prior to being placed in soil. Some seeds require this step to germinate, others don’t.
Depending on if you are germinating seeds indoors or outdoors, there are a few ways that you can go about starting them.
For indoor germination, there are a few different methods you can try:
#1: Egg Carton Germination Tray
Seedlings growing in an egg carton germination station. This is an excellent choice if you’re looking to germinate your plants indoors.
Using a biodegradable egg carton to germinate seeds is a very popular method amongst gardeners. I know that I personally have used this method to get my seeds started in the early spring.
Most egg cartons are made out of biodegradable paper material, which means that you can easily bury it right into the ground once the sprouts are ready. This is much easier, as you don’t have to remove the plants from their nursery soil to plant them.
If you’d like to learn how to make your own egg carton germination station, you can check out this video:
#2: Paper Towel Germination
Seedlings sprouting on a wet paper towel roll. This is a good way to start seedlings.
One good way to start up your seeds is to germinate them on a wet paper towel. Simply soak a paper towel in water, place the seeds on it, and put the paper towels with the seeds into a clear resealable bag. Once the seeds have sprouted, you can transport them into a pot and allow them to grow until they are ready to be transported outdoors.
#3 Plant the seeds directly into pots
Seedlings sprouting in pots.
Certain plants can be directly planted into small pots and started that way. Simply fill up a small pot with seedling friendly soil, plant the seeds, and follow the watering care instructions. Your seeds should sprout within a few days to a week.
Learning how to properly maintain plants indoors is a very important step in ensuring that your seedlings are happy and healthy while inside.
If you plan to germinate your seeds directly outdoors, you should provide adequate protection and take precautions before planting them in the soil. Make sure to check the frost resistance of your plants, and try to avoid planting new seeds before the last frost warning.
Tip #4: Check the quality of the seeds
Choosing seeds that are healthy and viable is crucial to have a good seedling turnout.
Before you plant anything, it may be a good idea to ensure that your seeds are likely to sprout. Germinating seeds is only possible if the seeds are healthy and viable.
If you plan to purchase seeds of the plant that you wish to grow, make sure that you are purchasing from a reliable and reputable source. That way, you can ensure that you are spending your money on viable seeds.
It’s also important to check how old the seeds are. The younger the seeds are, the more likely they are to sprout.
It may also be a good idea to carefully examine the actual seeds. Check to make sure that they are not damaged, and that there is no mold. If your seeds look healthy, they should be ready to plant!
Tip #5: Know how to transfer to your garden
It’s important to carefully transport seedlings into your garden only when they are ready.
If you begin your seeds indoors, at some point you will have to transport them to your garden. Once your seeds have sprouted and grown large enough, you can begin the process of transporting the plants outdoors.
Seedlings are usually ready to be transported outdoors when they have sprouted at least 3-4 adult leaves. However, this may vary from plant to plant, so make sure to do your own research.
Transporting new, young plants to a garden should be done gradually. Once your seedlings have grown large enough, you can transport them from your seedling nursery to a bigger pot. In order to acclimate them to the outdoors, you can also place the pot outdoors. One the plant has grown large enough, you can transport it to your garden.
Tip #6: Prepare the proper type of soil
Seedling health is directly affected by the quality of your soil. It’s important to prepare your soil for the seeds prior to planting.
If you want your seeds to thrive, an important step is to use the proper type of potting soil to plant them in. Seedlings require different soil conditions compared to older plants, and as such you need to choose your soil carefully. Thinner, lighter soil with very little clay matter is easiest for the seedlings to break through.
Potting soils specifically made for starting seeds are readily available online.
If you are planting your seeds directly into your garden, make sure the soil is adequately prepared for the seeds. Make sure you have turned the soil thoroughly, and that you’ve added in your seedling friendly fertilizer.
Tip #7: Water your seedlings properly
Seedlings, as with all plants, require the right watering conditions in order to germinate.
As with all plants, watering on a proper schedule is crucial to ensure the health of your seedlings. However, seedlings often require special watering conditions that change as they grow.
Make sure you do proper research on how much water your plant needs in the earlier stages of its life to make sure that it receives proper care.
Overwatering your seeds can cause them to rot, which will permanently damage them. Underwatering your seeds can prevent them from sprouting. At this early phase in life, you need to keep a careful eye on their watering schedule.
Tip #8: Use the right fertilizer
Seedling-friendly fertilizer can help your seedlings grow healthy and strong. It’s important that you choose the right kind of fertilizer to nourish your plants.
When planting seeds or seedlings in soil, it’s important that you use the proper fertilizer to stimulate growth. New plants often need extra care in order to thrive, and as such you should invest in a seedling-friendly fertilizer to help stimulate growth. There are plenty of fertilizers available online that are seedling safe.
If you’d like to create your own plant fertilizer, you can easily learn how to create your own natural fertilizer.
Tip #9: Make sure your seedlings receive the right amount of light
Providing the right amount of sunlight is a key factor in ensuring the overall health and longevity of your new plants.
As with all plants, seedlings require specific lighting conditions in order to thrive. An important step when germinating seeds is making sure that you are providing the right amount of sunlight. Too much sun may dry out your delicate seedlings, while too little sunlight may cause them to wilt.
It’s important to do research on the type of plant you are growing to ensure that they are receiving enough sunlight. Make sure to figure out how much sunlight your plant needs both as a seedling, and as a mature plant.
Tip #10: Keep watch for any problems
New plants are especially vulnerable to damage and disease. They need to be properly monitored and cared for.
It’s very important that you carefully monitor your plants while they grow. Are your seedlings stretching their stems too high and falling over? Do the leaves look droopy, or wilted? By keeping an eye on your seedlings as they grow, you can quickly tend to any needs that pop up.
You should also keep watch for signs of disease, such as insects or white fuzzy mold. Be prepared to remove any seedlings that seem damaged or diseased, so as to not negatively affect the rest of the plants.
Germinating seeds can be a challenging process, but it is equally rewarding to watch as your plants grow. By keeping these 10 tips in mind, you too can germinate beautiful healthy plants from seeds.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.