Seed starting - whats your tried and true method? (Share your results!)


I make these little seed sowing gadgets, these are made from thick plastic ,
But paper or thin cardboard ( like a cereal box ) works good to.
I like them because you can sit them down,
And only put so many seeds in at a time, and you can see the seeds moving along.
This eliminates some problems that one can encounter shaking the seeds out of a packet , … Mainly that you cannot see them moving, and they may all come out at once.
I tap the side with my finger…works good …


Picked up another bag of the Jiffy seed starting mix at Lowe’s yesterday. Its the same mix (75% peat, vermiculite, coir pith and lime) I used last year. I messed up last season when I put the mix in my pods before wetting it. When I watered the mix in the pods it floated up a bit before settling, so I’ll have to make sure I mix it with hot water in a bowl.


I’ve always been in the habit of soaking seed in water for a day or 2 before putting in seed trays…i also use a heat mat which i found to work excellent to get seeds going quickly. I’ve got a ton of old trays but i find that seedlings outgrow them so quickly so i might start in something bigger.


fill your pots with the mix then put in a tray. fill the tray 1/2 way with water. it will take the water up from the bottom with no mess. my father always watered his seedlings from the bottom this way. its quicker and doesn’t displace soil. :wink:


A spray bottle filled with warm water will wet any mix instantly. Even straight peat moss- which seems to repel water like teflon- wets right away if the water is warm enough.

One change I’ve made that has sped up and simplified seed starting for me is not making little holes in my soil mix to drop seeds into. Now I fill my trails completely full with my mix, wet and pack a bit, and spread seeds on it. I then sprinkle a layer of vermiculite on top instead of more soil mix. It’s so much less clumpy- and it wets instantly even with cool water. The color contrast with my soil mix makes it easy to see when I have enough.


Some pictures of my seed starting…

This is in my unheated garage. I put reflective insulation around three sides, have two heating mats and 4 t8 bulbs.

spinach started 2/3.

onions started 2/1, I think.

Brassicas started 2/7. Three types of kholrabi, dino kale, dwarf curly kale, Napa cabbage, Impala cabbage, jersey early cabbage, and champion collards.

I started 6 types of lettuces, chard, diciccio broccoli and sprouting broccoli last night.


I’m not quite as high end as some of you. I have a 4 foot, eight tube high output T5 florescent in my Basement.

Seems to work fairly well, the ambient temp in the basement tends to run in the mid 50s to low 60s, and the grow area is enclosed enough that the light heats it up to the mid-70s during the daytime when the light is on.


Nice. What kind of spinach and onions are you trying?

I’m looking to trying brassicas, leafy greens and onions also indoors this year, since my success rate directly sowing them in the garden has been dismal. I grow my starts on a 6ft table in the hallway with a 4 bulb T8 fixture hanging from chains. First hit them with the heat pads, and when they sprout, give them the light treatment.


The spinach is Bloomsdale Long standing. It has worked well for me in the past. I actually have been able to overwinter some under a hoop house and it is currently growing so that’s exciting.

The onions are Walla walla, New York Early, Red Burgandy, and Valencia. I’ve had spotty onions in the past.

I did about the same with germination. I germinate them in my laundry room then move them out to the garage because I am able to keep the temperature at about 60 compared to 75 indoors. The higher temps have caused problems for brassicas for me in the past.


For those of you growing onions under lights, do you worry about having too long of a lighted period? I like to do 16 or so hours on with the lights for most of the things I’m starting, but I had read somewhere that doing that with onions can cause them to bulb too early when you plant them and you wind up with smaller onions. It makes sense since the length of the day can trigger the bulbs to form, but I wasn’t sure if it mattered when they are so small.

I’ve got Cabernet F1 and Ailsa Craig onions started with my kales and chards. Chinense peppers are started and the others I’ll start this weekend.

I’m trying to decide if my chard is looking leggy or not or if that was how they’ve always grown. Since I’m using new T8 replacment LEDs and other LEDs this year, I’m watching carefully to make sure everything does well under the new lights.


I do keep my light timer at 11 1/2 hours until the onions go outside, and then I kick it up. Since I grow both intermediate and long day, I don’t want to take any risks.

Although, there is a juvenile stage where they are incapable of bulbing, it seems like they have to be about pencil-thick before you actually have any danger of that.


Thanks Bryan. Sounds like as long as they aren’t too thick I’m okay. They’re just putting up their 3rd “leaf” so not to fat yet, although they are so tall I have to keep the lights higher than I like. When I can, I’ve been putting the and the chard/kale flats outside, but it just isn’t that warm lately.

I just put some tomato seeds in paper towels to pre-sprout them yesterday and will start the rootstocks I plan to use in 3-4 days, hoping to get the timing right to match the stem widths. I’m also starting most of my peppers sprouting in paper towels tonight, but the C. Chinense types are already planted and have their first set of full leaves. Every morning and night I go downstairs to the basement to check things, thinking do these look okay? Are they getting leggy? Will anything sprout in that one empty cell? It is a bit of stress and anxiety at times, but it sure is satisfying to see all those seedlings coming to life.


Started most of my seeds between 2/20 and 2/23. This includes tomatoes, eggplants, basil and various flowers. Peppers (started 2/2) are just starting to develop their first set of true leaves. Many seeds (mostly flowers) have already germinated. Melons will be started in a month.

I always get algae on the top of my soil. Doesn’t seem to bother the plants much but if anyone has any ideas how to prevent this let me know.


What kind of fig varieties are you rooting?


I always thought the algae on top means you are over watering. There are videos on Pro Mix watering where they explain what to look for to know when to water.


Smith, Ronde de Bordeaux and Florea. All but the RdB was very easy to root. Had some problems with spider mites and I treated with Spectracide Malathion which looks like is causing some leaf burn / drop. Figs seem to be extremely sensitive to any kind of herbicide / fungicide from my experience.

@growjimgrow I thought I was over-watering too but its definitely not that. When I pulled back on watering I get wilting and the pots feel way too light - but the algae survives just fine. Watering from the bottom also hasn’t helped much.


Several people have commented on light timing. I have found that for seedlings, the timing of light/dark doesn’t matter much if at all. When I was doing starts in my basement I’d run my lights 24/7 for weeks to get them going. Did this for 20 years without any problems for all kinds of veggies and leafy greens.


Algae growth is favored by too much nitrates in a low pH media. I know commercially available media is supposed to be “pH balanced”, but I suspect their nitrate nutes, plus organic acids formed when media breaks down when wet lowers pH. The algae will actually ‘balance’ the mixture by consuming excess nitrates but it seems to form a dense mat over the surface which looks to me like it could suffocate the roots, so if I see it I’ll break it up. Maybe not necessary, but I’m like a mother hen over her chicks, LOL.


Here is my current “crew”:

I put a rootstock in the middle of each tomato pot, and 4 or so scion varieties around it. For some reason the rootstock plants are looking a little anemic now, they are lighter green. I expect they will grow out of it and it looks like they are heading that way now but its a bit odd.

Another odd thing is some of the tomato scion varieties really want to bend over, I don’t recall seeing that in seedlings. Some other ones are growing up pretty straight.


worm castings on top.