We may have a big garden, but we are surely not experts. Nor do we have fancy gardening equipment! In this post, we will discuss how to start seeds indoors using basic supplies.

Just like anything else, you can get as fancy and technical as you’d like. While it’s certainly fun to do, we haven’t had the time yet to go bonkers with fancy grow lights just yet. We also have little helpers (ages 4 and 2) and let’s just say gardening with them is an experience. If you’ve been following along on Instagram for a while, you may remember when we planted our fall crops someone removed all of the labels and we had no idea what we were growing…

But, it’s a great learning experience for us all, not just the kids. Plus, kids LOVE to eat what they grew! So watch out, we haven’t had fresh peas ever because the kiddos pick and eat them straight out of the raised beds as soon as they’re ripe!

About half of our garden is started from seed, and the rest is grown using starter plants from a local farm. We love to support local farms whenever possible, and when it comes to certain vegetables, starter plants work out better for us.


cool weather crops

Starting seeds indoors can be done for a variety of reasons, but here’s why we do it:

  • More economical: If we think of how much a packet of seeds costs (say about $2-3) and how many seeds are in each packet, starting seeds indoors is very inexpensive. Starter plants on the other hand can vary in price, but they’re always more expensive than the seeds.
  • Access to different types of plants: Having access to purchasing specific types of starter plants is great. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Depending on what you would like to grow, seeds might be the only way to access certain plants in your area.
  • Makes spring feel closer: Maybe it’s just me? Living in New England sometimes Spring feels far away. Starting seeds indoors brings a little bit of life, joy and hints of spring!


labeled seed packets for starting seeds indoors

Assuming that you’ve determined what you would like to plant (what comes from seed and what you will buy as a starter plant). Now it’s time to figure out when to plant.

Most seed packets will provide instructions on when to plant and if the seeds should be directly sewn. We like to write on the seed packets the date to plant, as it helps to keep us on track and also keeps us from forgetting about them!

It’s always a good idea to do some research on each of the varieties that you’re planting, until you are familiar with them.


dried rhubarb seeds at home heirloom preservation
rhubarb seeds

Germination is essentially how long it takes for a seed to grow into a plant. That’s the very un-scientific definition. The reason why we have to think about germination when growing seeds indoors is because germination time needs to be factored in when we’re planning when to plant seeds.

Some seeds (such as beans) germinate very quickly. So, their lighting and soil requirements will be rapidly changing too. Other seeds may take longer to germinate.

You will want to start plants with similar requirements at the same time. So for example, we wouldn’t start beans with a longer germinating plant such as peppers. This is because the beans would be quite tall before the peppers even sprouted.

Some gardeners speed up germination through a method called seed soaking. Yes, it is exactly as it sounds. Some seeds can be soaked in water for 12-24 hours before planting. While seed soaking may be considered best practice by many gardeners, not everyone does it and that’s okay too!

We occasionally soak seeds, but not always and we still have great luck with our seeds.


simple seed starting indoor setup
It’s not beautiful, but it’s functional! This is what our indoor seed setup will look like (but with many more seed trays set up).

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  • Seed Trays: These come in a variety of sizes. We have found that it makes the most sense to plant the same seeds in all of the cells of the seed pack. Otherwise it can be too difficult to remove only certain plants that are ready when other varieties planted in the same seed pack maybe aren’t big enough yet. This year we have decided to start seeds in these 200 cell seed trays. We will be planting lots of cutting flowers, and this will allow me to plant 200 of each type of flower in these trays. Reuse trays year after year!
  • Germination Tray (or Seed Starting Tray): This is the flat plastic part that the seed cells will sit in. The purpose for using this is for water to drain out of the cells and sit into the tray. Humidity is essential for seedlings, and will be captured in the dome. These trays are also very reusable, year after year.
humidity dome on seed tray for indoor seed starting
  • Humidity Domes: Are inexpensive and reusable. Humidity is important when starting seeds because it allows the seed to fall off of the plant’s leaves. When humidity is too low, leaves stick to their seeds, or stick to each other when opening. These humidity domes come in handy for houseplants too.
  • Soil: Well of course we’re going to need dirt! The type of dirt is really up to you, we use a variety of different types depending on what is available.


seed mat for starting seeds indoors
seed mat

This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. See my full disclosure here.

  • Light: Purchasing a light to start seeds is not necessary. For many years we set our seed trays by the window! In recent years, we have hung florescent lights over our seeds and raised the lights up as the plants grew. We are not using any special grow lights, just plain fluorescent shop lighting.
  • Seed Warming Mat: Seeds germinate with warmth, so placing a seed warming mat under the seed tray is a great way to speed up germination. Not necessary, but it does help and these can be purchased inexpensively. If you’re not currently starting seeds, this mat can be a good spot to put your sourdough starter during the cold winter months.


new trays for starting seeds indoors

Again, there are about a million ways to do this – but today I will share our process.

Pack the seed cells with soil and then place them into the seed tray. Add some water to the seed tray and allow the soil to soak up the water. Keeping the humidity dome on top is helpful for this process.

After a few hours, or the next day, go ahead and plant your seeds! Be sure the seed warming mat is under the tray if you have decided to use one. A light is not necessary at this time.

potting soil for indoor seed starting

Keep the humidity dome in place, and check the seeds each day for growth and to ensure they are properly hydrated.

Once the seedlings have emerged, put the light on for about 12-16 hours per day. As they grow, you will have to eventually remove the humidity dome and raise the light.

Plant in the garden at the time recommended by the seed company, and enjoy!


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