INDOOR SEED STARTING 101 - Sowing the Seed (Part 3)

In this, the last of a 3-part series, I will walk you through the steps of all things seed, seedling and transplant related. Keeping true to my belief of keeping it simple, I have intentionally mentioned the most important steps to ensure success but have not bogged the reader down with too much detail. Remember, gardening is a journey that is meant to be enjoyed.


Knowing when to start seeds indoors is important and also confusing. Because we are striving for the healthiest, optimally-sized transplant for setting out in our gardens, timing is rather crucial. The first thing you must determine is your areas Last Frost Date (LFD). Once this is known, use the chart below to determine how many weeks in advance each particular crop will need (in terms of weeks) from seed to set out in the garden.

Indoor Seed Sowing Guide

Thanks to the Farmer's Almanac, determining your LFD is as easy as clicking on this link. Armed with this date, go find a calendar, and using the INDOOR SOWING GUIDE, (pictured) you will now know exactly how many weeks before your LFD to sow the most common garden crops.

IMPORTANT: As much as you may want to, do not start seeds earlier than recommended, as you will most certainly end up with straggly seedlings that will never recover once they are set out in the garden. It is, however, okay to start seeds later than recommended by 2-3 weeks as they will eventually catch up in the garden.


Over the years, I have developed the habit of microwaving ALL of my commercial seed starting mix before I use it in the house. Why? Because aphid larvae just love to hitchhike along in it. Is this step necessary? Absolutely not. It's just what I do.

In a glass bowl add soil and water to moisten. Microwave for 4 minutes.

Fill a glass bowl (my preference for ease of cleaning afterwards) with as much soil as you feel you will need. Add enough water to moisten to the consistency of a damp sponge. Less is more, as you can always add to. Microwave for 4 minutes. Remove the bowl and stir thoroughly. It will cool down rather quickly. Any remaining soil can be stored for later use.


Whatever container/pot/tray you decide to use, keep in mind that you do not need to overfill it and it does NOT need drainage holes. These are temporary homes, so there is no sense in wasting soil. An average of a couple of inches is just fine. My preferred method of sowing is called the Dense Planting Method. I was introduced to this method by the author of the video, Craig LeHoullier many years ago and have used it ever since. (BTW, I had the pleasure of meeting Craig and he really is as normal as he seems in his video(s).) This method is truly a space saver.


An often overlooked topic is how deep seed(s) should be planted? In most cases, that information will be printed on the back of the seed pack. But, what if it isn't?

A good rule of thumb is to use the "3 times the width of a single seed". For example, corn would be planted a full inch deep. While lettuce, w