How do you grow vegetables from seeds step-by-step? When should I start vegetable seeds? In this post, I cover how to start growing vegetables from seeds – even if you’re a beginner!
It’s that time of year again! Not a garden nerd like me?
I’m talking about gardening season, of course! (You know, that time of the year where many people learn how to start seeds indoors for a vegetable garden.)
Hi friends – Chantal from The Thriving Homemaker here. While I LOVE perennial gardening and gardening of all kinds, it’s food gardening time in much of the USA.
It makes me so happy to see my favorite garden, homesteading, and farm bloggers excited just like me!
But regular people all over the US are starting seeds and planting vegetable gardens, fruit trees, berries, and so much more!
This year, things are a little different in that the outbreak of coronavirus has put pressure on America’s food supply.
You have probably seen pictures of empty grocery stores and ridiculous grocery store lines if you haven’t seen it yourself.
This has made how to start growing vegetables from seeds a hot topic!
And with good reason. While there isn’t necessarily a shortage of food in America, there is definitely a demand issue that is hurting many Americans.
On the other end of the spectrum, people are staying in more and avoiding stores when possible.
More than that, these uncertain and stressful times are making Americans reconsider their level of reliance on grocery stores. This is a huge part of why our family finally took the leap and decided to commit to becoming ranchers and homesteaders.
It is my belief that in recent decades, we have become too reliant on others to provide for us. We have been able to get anything we want, almost as soon as we want it, and we are less capable than ever.
(If you know me at all, you know that I am super into the topics of homesteading and gardening. My first website ever was a homesteading blog.)
Anyway, millions of Americans who have NEVER had food gardens before are finally starting to see the value in growing their own food!
My homesteading blogger friends are inundated with questions about how to start a vegetable garden for beginners.
Learning how to start seeds indoors is at the top of the list of questions.
But it doesn’t stop there. People want to learn how to bake their own bread (especially sourdough), preserve their own food, protect their families and homes, and everything else related to being self-sufficient.
It honestly makes me so happy to see this trend, despite what set it in motion. If we can return to a more local food supply, we’d all be in better shape.
What does vegetable gardening have to do with homemaking?
How does how to start growing vegetables from seeds relate to homemaking? It’s a valid question!
One thing I love about having my own website is that I can also use it to connect to other homemakers. We are, after all, a small, family-run business. And with that, we want to use our site to help you learn more about who we are as humans and what we value.
I personally absolutely love to garden, and I am obsessed with the concepts around homesteading. Someday I might like to have a large-scale veggie operation. But otherwise, I am passionate about farm-to-table eating, and becoming more self-sufficient. And nothing compliments the home better than home-grown veggies.
Not everyone is going to decide to become a rancher, farmer, or homesteader, but everyone can garden. I truly believe this. Though I grew up with some strong influences in the way of gardening, I still had to start from scratch when I moved into my own home when Jake & I got married. So, although I had a natural knack for things, I still experienced my fair share of ups and downs as far as veggie gardening.
With a few more years under my belt now, I have to share this one big tip: JUST START.
You will learn something from each season you have. Each seed has value beyond what you can understand the moment you plant it. So just start somewhere.
Learning how to start growing vegetables from seeds is a huge skill in the realm of gardening.
Vegetable gardening has many benefits for your health, too, but here are the top 3.
- Good For The Soul
- Excellent For Exercise
- Great For Clean Eats
Gardening not only has a nourishing, calming effect on most people, it can also help you appreciate your food.
By nourishing a seed from start to finish, all the way until the fruit of your labor is on your plate or in your mouth, you appreciate the hard work that is put into it.
If you grow vegetables from seed, there’s a connection there, too.
Obviously, gardening can have some immediate physical benefits once plants are due to be planted outdoors.
You must prep the soil, pull the weeds, water, harvest, and so much more. And exercise doesn’t just burn calories – it also offers us feel-good endorphins (hormones) that help us stay motivated and happy.
Thirdly, homegrown, organic foods are the healthiest option for most of us. By growing your own food, you know exactly what went into your food and how it was cared for.
You can expect to eat nutritious, fresh food picked at the peak time for maximum nutrients and flavor.
(Nothing beats sweet, sun-warmed berries or fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes in the summer, right?)
These are obviously my opinions, but I believe that if you start your own vegetable garden from seeds, you’ll know what I mean!
So, how do you get started vegetable gardening if you’re a beginner?
Here’s the fun (but sometimes frustrating) thing about gardening – it is always a learning process.
How do you grow vegetables from seeds step-by-step? I could tell you, but know this…
There are a lot of ways to do things, and no real hard-and-fast rules here.
Of course, there are best practices and millions of tips out there, but it really isn’t very complicated to get started vegetable gardening.
In this post, I want to talk about how to start seeds (specifically vegetable seeds) so that you might grow your own vegetables from start to finish.
*If you want to grow your own fruit, it’s typically something you do from cuttings/roots or they require a lot of time (years, even) if done from seed.
You can get seeds from your local farm/garden store, many grocery stories, garden websites, and so many other places.
For a huge selection (and local varieties), I recommend visiting your farm/feed store or specialty website like Baker Creek Seeds.
How To Pick Which Vegetable Seeds To Start
What you decide to grow should be based largely on what you already like to eat.
It can be fun to try to grow things that you don’t eat, but it can be a huge waste of time, money, and resources.
So, pick a few things, but don’t go overboard if it’s your first times starting vegetables from seed.
I like to recommend lettuce, tomatoes, and squash (but those are also my favorite summer vegetables).
Also keep in mind how much space you have.
You can grow many things in containers, but different plants require varying depths of soil and space. Tomatoes, squash, watermelon, potatoes, and many other plants get really big and have huge leaves when they start to get mature.
Lastly (but very importantly) you need to consider your sun. Many varieties of vegetables require 6+ hours of sun daily, while others are okay in part shade.
So, read up on necessary planting depths, spacing, and soil requirements. Your seed packets should give you enough insight to get you started. Don’t forget to note the amount of available sun you have daily. For many veggies, when in doubt, more sun is better.
One more thing to keep in mind – seed packets usually have way more seeds than you will need for your family.
You don’t need more than one packet per type of vegetable, and you can use those seeds year over year until the germination rate is nil.
(Depending on how you store your seeds, your seeds can typically serve you for 2-3 years before you need new ones. Germination/success rate typically falls a bit each year.)
How To Start Growing Vegetables From Seeds
Let’s talk about easy ways to start vegetables from seeds.
I’m talking about a small scale thing, here. You aren’t going to use these tips for a commercial greenhouse full of veggies.
Once you have your seeds, you will need to determine when you will start them. This should be based on your area’s garden zone and expected “last” frost date for the season. (Find your gardening zone here – USDA website.)
You want to avoid planting seeds (and even established plants) outdoors until after the last expected frost date. For years we were spoiled by Oregon’s lush valley and mild climate, which meant that we didn’t really worry about frost much. But each new zone requires a little research, since soil and frost dates will vary largely, even within the same state.
This is what many people start their seeds indoors, which is what we are going to talk about!
Easy Ways To Start Vegetable Seeds From Scratch
If you think that it’s complicated to start growing vegetables from seed if you’re a beginner, think again!
Starting seeds indoors without grow lights or any special equipment is really quite simple.
In fact, you can often start your seeds with cheap materials from the garden store or free items you already have around the house!
Here are a few ways I have started my own seeds…
1. Egg Cartons
It’s a popular way to start seeds because the pods in an egg carton are the perfect size. Plus, most of us already have an egg carton laying around!
To start vegetable seeds in an egg carton, first rip off the lid. Then, fill the pods with a seed starting mix/potting soil like this one. (Affiliate link.)
Next, smush one seed per pod about half way down (for most seeds) into the soil. I like to use the eraser end of a pencil to grab and place each seed.
When you are done with each pod, you will firmly cover the seeds entirely.
Next, gently water your seeds – your egg carton should be wet through but not dripping. Place them in the sun and continue to water them daily until they start to sprout. Be careful not to drown them when you water them again, or it can disturb the seed after it takes root.
Optional, but recommended – cover your egg carton with some sort of transparent plastic to help heat and moisture stay in.
I used a large water bottle with the ends cut off for this years’ seeds. (See picture.)
You can also use a milk carton, plastic wrap, or anything similar.
2. Peat Pots or Pellets
I have had the most success starting vegetables from seeds using pre-filled pea pellets or pots. (This tray and mini-greenhouse combo is my favorite.)
If you can get the starter trays that include a mini-greenhouse (cheap plastic lid that fits on your tray), that is the way to go.
You can use the same tray/lid for years, and simply buy new pellets every year. (Here are the refill peat pellets.) These are nice because the pellets are already single and ready for transplanting once your seeds have sprouted.
*You can also buy peat pots, which are compostable pots that decompose nicely and can be planted directly in the soil. However, they are not already filled with potting soil.
3. Solo Cups
You can start seeds in slightly larger containers of almost any kind.
Since your seedlings will eventually grow and require transplanting to larger pots (or directly to the garden), Solo cups are the perfect size.
You can start your seeds directly in Solo cups (with a hole or two for drainage) if you want.
However, this takes up a lot of space if you’re starting seeds indoors like most people.
If you’re planning on having a small garden, this is okay.
But if you’re wanting a lot of different veggies or a large quantity of the same variety, this may not be helpful.
However, this method can be great if Solo cups are simply what you have on hand.
The method is the same, but will require more soil (you may choose to cut cups down a bit).
4. Newspaper Cups
If you are frugal and like to recycle, this is for you!
You can build newspaper seed starting pots that can go straight into the ground. Since newspaper will decompose nicely over time, the roots of your vegetable plants will have no problem.
This is a great tutorial for making seed starting pots from newspapers.
While it might require a little more time and patience, this is a great way to use up those old newspapers.
Just make sure to use traditional newspapers (not the glossy ads or magazines).
They not only contain dyes and chemicals different to traditional newspaper, they take longer to decompose.
5. Toilet Paper Rolls
This is a great way to reuse all of those toilet paper rolls. (You know, the ones you’ve been collecting for some craft you’ll probably never do!)
Making little seed starting pots from toilet paper rolls is super easy, but the downside is that you’ll likely have a limited supply.
If you want to start many seeds, this might not be a great option.
But, if you’re willing to do a combination of seed-starting methods, you can still have plenty of starting pots!
To start vegetable seeds using toilet paper roll pots, simply cut angled slits in the bottom inch of one side. (You’ll make several slits of the same length vertically.)
Then fold all sides up and into the roll. This should create some sort of closure and you’ll be able to fill the empty top with soil.
This is not my preferred method of seed-starting, but it does work for a lot of people. Here’s a more detailed tutorial with a few different options and more suggestions.
Extra Tips On How To Start Growing Vegetables From Seeds
It’s important that you don’t let your seeds get dry while you are waiting for them to germinate. You should also let them get as much sun as possible without letting them get too cold.
If you have a nice, sunny window sill, this is a great place to put your seeds. We recently moved from an area that is a mix of high-desert and alpine, and there I had to keep my seeds both inside and outdoors. (Taking them in at night.)
My best window sill is not in full sun, which is what’s preferred for starting seeds.
So I move my seeds out to the back yard and put them in the sun for several hours per day in the middle of the day.
I only leave them inside when it is too cold, or for several hours in the morning and all night.
The plastic helps to gain and retain warmth. So while it isn’t fully necessary, it can be helpful if you have a cold or non-sunny situation like I did.
Lastly, be patient when learning how to start growing vegetables from seeds!
It can take up to two weeks to see your seedlings pop up. (Depending on the vegetable and variety.)
However, if your seeds don’t start to germinate after that, it may be time to try again.
I hope that this post helps you feel confident as you learn how to start growing vegetables from seeds.
Germinating vegetables doesn’t have to be complicated, but there is definitely an art to it!
Do you have any other tips on growing vegetables from seeds for beginners? Please let me know by leaving a comment below!