Sunflower seedlings, just three days after ger...
Sunflower seedlings, just three days after germination (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


You have your seeds, planting medium, containers, lights and heating mat. Now what?

Now it’s time to get dirty!

Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Sow seeds according to packet instructions. For large seeds, make a shallow furrow with a pencil or chopstick. This method is easier than trying to poke and space individual holes. Close the furrow over the seeds by brushing back the sides into the hole or sprinkle on more seed starting mix to cover lightly (see packet back for specific depth of coverage) then water gently to settle mix around seeds. Don’t be alarmed if your seeds seem to float to the top. Seed start mix and most potting soil are very light. It will settle.
  • Try mixing tiny seeds that are hard to handle with a little sand. Sprinkle seeds as evenly as possible. Don’t worry; you can thin out excess seedlings later. Thin them by pinching off the stems at soil level. It is best to leave the root system alone.
  • The first two leaves that sprout are called “seed leaves”, duh, right? These leaves are very durable and can act as little handles to help you transfer the plant at transplanting time. The rest of the leaves that sprout are called “true leaves”.
  • When seedlings have several sets of true leaves, transplant them to a new container to give them more room to develop. This process is called “pricking out”.
  • Lift seedlings carefully, holding them by leaves (not by stem or roots), and transplant about 2 inches apart in the new container. Now they can grow big enough to go out in the garden when conditions are favorable.

Things to remember:

  • Let the plants tell you when they are thirsty. Don’t allow the soil to totally dry out but be careful not to over water. Overwatering causes plants to “dampen off” or rot. Fuzzy wuzzy was a tomato plant is not what you song you want stuck in your head.
  • If you choose to use a heating mat, it may dry the soil out faster than without one.
  • Remove any domes or lids you used to keep in humidity as soon as a good number of seeds sprout.
  • Keep your lights about 4 inches above your plants to help keep them from getting leggy.

Follow these tips and your plants will be off to a healthy start!

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