5 Tips for Growing Your Vegetable Starts Indoors

If you are planning to or have started your vegetable seedling indoors, here's reminder of some best practices to keep your seedlings healthy so that you can have the best spring and summer garden possible!


Thin seedlings as they emerge from soil

When your seedlings poke through the potting soil in your plug trays, snip all but one of them. Pick out the strongest seedling that you'd like to save and cut the rest out. Of course, it depends on what seed you are growing; for lettuces and herbs, for example, you'll want several per cell as these plants are intended to grow in bunches. Typically, for garden vegetables, such as peppers, tomatoes, squashes and more, you'll want to only have one seedling per cell.


Touch soil every day

As you go on maintaining your seedlings, touching the soil can inform you of how much water they need--if any. Whether you are using potting soil or coco coir, it should feel moist but not soggy at all times. So, if the substance feels moist, check back in a few hours and water them if needed.


Water using a bottom tray

Seedlings can be delicate and can get displaced if water abruptly flows from the top. Watering this way can also cause fungal diseases (rare) that can be a problem in the future. That is why we opt for what is called "bottom watering", a method by which you pour water into a bottom tray where the soil in the celled trays can wick it up as it dries. This also helps to prevent over watering as the soil will only draw what it needs.


Provide plenty of light

Grow lights are the simplest solution for providing enough light that you seedlings require--at least 10 hours with the full 6500 K spectrum lights. The next best option is to place them next a window (south-facing) where it receives AT LEAST eight hours of sun per day. Otherwise, the seedlings will struggle and affect it ability to reach maturity. Because of this light requirement, many people choose to direct sow their seeds when outdoor temperatures are right.


What to do with extra seedlings

It is good to over-plant so you can choose the best seedlings to transplant and subsequently grow in your garden. It can leave you with a surplus of vegetable seedlings, which make a great spring time gift to your neighbors, family, and friends. Often folks remember to start their garden when it is too late. Seedlings are a great surprise for those who missed the window to plant!

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7 comments

  • Eden 07:59 PM

    Since it is already rainy season, I started taking care of indoor plants. This blog is a huge help for me, thank you for all of your tips

  • Jerry 10:03 AM

    I see questions and no answers. I was wondering about the 24 hr grow light myself.

  • Kevin 05:22 PM

    I noticed that it’s always mentioned to give seedlings 8 to 12 hours of light. Why not leave grow lights on all day, 24 hrs.? Thanks, KC

  • Suzanne 05:06 PM

    Great tips. As a second year gardener, what plants are you starting inside and when are you starting them? I have a small grow light set up going. I already started tomatoes but I am not sure what else to do. Thank you

  • Belinda A. Butler 02:36 PM

    Could you give some suggestions on cleaning the trays that I used last year? I have read that a hydrogen peroxide bath with water will kill any unwanted bacteria clinging to the surface, but I am not sure of the ratio I should use with water. Thank you! I love Sustainable Seed Company. I hope this new year will be easier for you and your employees.

  • Belinda A. Butler 02:36 PM

    Could you give some suggestions on cleaning the trays that I used last year? I have read that a hydrogen peroxide bath with water will kill any unwanted bacteria clinging to the surface, but I am not sure of the ratio I should use with water. Thank you! I love Sustainable Seed Company. I hope this new year will be easier for you and your employees.

  • John Devereaux 11:06 AM

    All true, sometimes, the urge to start off seedlings can be an intense challenge even for the more experienced gardeners which can lead to starting seedlings much too early. Taht is of course, if they dont have grow lights, adequate watering abilities and most importantly shelter and heat to at least assist with germination requirements. However, onions, leeks and the other Alliums apparently do better started as seedlings with adequate heat but then once germinated, tolerate lower heat availability such as the cooler temperatures of a low pollytunnel / cloche or cold frame (even outside in a sheltered but bright situation). In many circumstances, even doubling or tripling a sheet of winter fleece (27plus grams) over a fabricated frame can support the seedlings when a lower temperature is present such as an overnight temperature drop to -5 celcius. Remember, a little bit of technological ability helps.

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