Garden of Eatin' / How-To / Seeds & Seedlings

The Ultimate Seed Starting Guide: A Roundup of Garden Betty’s Best Tips and Tutorials

The ultimate seed starting guide: a roundup of Garden Betty's best tips and tutorials

It’s 50°F and sunny in Central Oregon, and while that may still sound cold to our southern neighbors, we’re really enjoying our false spring. (This weather meme, which circulates throughout the year in our region, makes me laugh every time.)

Central Oregon weather meme

The days are getting longer, the snow is melting rapidly, the songbirds are out in full force, and I’m itching to go outside and get my hands dirty in the garden. Realistically, we’re still months away from our peak growing season, but there are still plenty of things to do in preparation for the year ahead.

Namely: seed starting.

Let's get those seeds started

Starting your own seeds is a wonderful way to get a head start on the growing season, especially if you’re still waiting for the ground to thaw.

Here in Bend, Oregon, we have a frost-free season of only 75 days! Aside from buying transplants, which can add up quickly, sowing seeds indoors or in a greenhouse is the only way to ensure a successful garden in a short-season climate.

It’s also an affordable way to fill a garden, and by starting your own seeds, you get access to thousands more varieties than you’ll ever find in a big-box garden center or local nursery.

Starting seeds in early spring

Giving your plantings a few weeks of lead time means you’ll have stronger, more established plants to put outside once the weather has warmed.

These larger plants (particularly brassicas like cabbage and broccoli) are better able to withstand pests that love to feast on tender, delicate seedlings, and are more resilient to the wide temperature fluctuations common in spring. They’re also less likely to get crowded out by weeds or mistakenly removed along with them.

Onion seeds germinating

I’ve learned a lot about seed starting over the years, mostly by killing a lot of seedlings through underwatering, overwatering, forgetfulness, carelessness, or curious experimentation.

It can be so disheartening to see hours of your hard work go to waste, simply because you didn’t provide enough light in those early weeks of seed germination or harden off your seedlings properly.

To be honest, trial and error — though valuable in experience — isn’t the most fun way to learn how to start seeds. So, I’ve assembled the ultimate roundup below of my best tips, tricks, and tutorials to help you succeed this growing season.

Seedlings started indoors before the last frost

You’ll find out which bombproof seed starting trays I swear by and the seed starting mix that never fails me (if I’m not making my own, that is). You’ll learn how to calculate the right amount of plants to grow for your family and why it’s worth testing those tough-to-sprout seeds in a baggie first.

And finally, I’ll take you through every step of starting your own seeds indoors in my beginner’s seed starting guide, quickly and easily.

Watering newly sprouted seedlings in seedling trays

Learn from a decade’s worth of my experiences, mistakes, and smack-my-head moments, invest your resources wisely, and enjoy the process along the way!

The Ultimate Seed Starting Guide: A Roundup of Garden Betty's Best Tips and Tutorials

If you've always wanted to start your own seeds indoors but didn't know how, start here.

Tomato seedlings ready to be thinned and transplanted

Seed Starting Resources

Bootstrap Farmer Multi-Color Extra Strength Seedling Trays | Bootstrap Farmer Extra Strength 1020 Trays | Bootstrap Farmer 32-Cell Seedling Starter Tray with Inserts | Bootstrap Farmer Humidity Dome | Bootstrap Farmer 32-Cell Seed Starter Kit with Inserts | Koram Seed Starter Trays with Lid and Base | Behrens Galvanized Steel Pail | Tubtrugs Flexible Bucket | Terrain Mini Trowel | Barebones for Terrain Potting Scoop | Black Gold Seedling Mix | Hoffman Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss | Hoffman Horticultural Vermiculite | Hoffman Horticultural Perlite | Kinglake 4-Inch Plastic Plant Marker | Staedtler Lumocolor Permanent Garden Marker | Neptune’s Harvest Fish and Seaweed Blend Fertilizer
About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »