How to Avoid These 10 Common Seed Starting Mistakes That Most People Make

Seed starting is generally pretty easy, but it does come with challenges that sometimes stump (or surprise) even experienced gardeners.

From figuring out the ideal window for sowing seeds to knowing how much light your seedlings need, these are the fundamentals every gardener should know.

If you've struggled with starting plants from seeds, I'm laying out the 12 most common seed-starting mistakes you may be making—and how to prevent or fix them.


Using old seeds.

Onion seeds, for example, are only good for a year at most. Maybe you were able to get that two-year-old onion seed to germinate, but chances are, it won’t reach its fullest potential as a plant.


Failing to account for “days to maturity.”

A good number of people probably don’t pay attention to the confusing “days to maturity” label on their seed packets. But if you live in a region with a cooler or shorter growing season, this is one term you need to know.


Starting seeds at the wrong time.

When should you start seeds? It all comes down to knowing the average last frost date for your specific area. Once you know your last frost date, simply count backward the number of weeks required for each type of plant to be direct sown or transplanted.


Forgetting to stratify seeds.

Stratification (also known as cold stratification) doesn’t apply to all seeds, but it’s the number-one reason some seeds take their sweet time germinating (or refuse to germinate at all).


Starting seeds in native soil.

If you’re starting seeds inside, most native soil (that is, the regular soil in your garden) is simply too dense for the tiny, closed environment of a seed-starting tray or seedling pot.

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