Learning how to grow plants from seeds step by step and watching the whole transformation is much more exciting and rewarding than just buying the plants from the shop. A tiny seed becomes a fully grown plant and produces more seeds for the following year. Observing this circle of life is fun for kids and adults alike.
Here is a step by step article on how to grow plants from seeds using simple equipment.
This process was researched and tested using most of the techniques out there and combined into the best step by step technique on how to grow plants from seeds.
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How To Grow Plants From Seeds Step By Step
A good technique is pivotal for a successful garden. So, use this how to grow plants from seeds step by step article to learn more and avoid unnecessary mistakes.
Step 1. Seed Selection
So many seeds to pick from… So many varieties of each plant to choose from! Which seeds should you select, and which ones should you avoid? Not the most straightforward decision… But let me help you!
Depending on your garden size, you must decide what you want to grow versus what grows in your area. Below is a list of seeds that grow well and has the best chance of survival in most regions:
These are the top easiest-to-grow edibles, but you are nowhere near limited to only these. If you choose to grow other plants, just check your hardiness zone to see if your seedlings and plants will grow and survive in your garden.
You can buy seeds in most of your local nurseries or garden shops. But to increase varieties in your garden, find a reputable online seed store that sells fresh, disease-resistant seeds.
Pro Tip: Choose the varieties known to grow easily in your region for your primary plants. But also, select a couple of plants/varieties that you never tried before as an experiment. This way, you will definitely find a couple of gems for your garden.
Step 2. Container Selection
This is the easiest part of the whole step by step process. Anything can act as a container as long as it can hold your soil mix and has holes at the bottom for water drainage. If the container does not have holes, make them using a drill, nail, or knife.
You can use a seed tray or containers bought from the store. Alternatively, you can select something else to act as a container. Below is the list of ideas that will help you choose:
- Seed starting trays
- Cell trays
- Flower pots
- Peat pots
- Plastic cups
- Newspaper pots
- Toilet paper rolls
- Paper coffee cups
- Plastic water bottles
- Plastic milk bottles
- Milk cartons
- Egg cartons
- Yogurt cups
- Or any other recycled containers
If you reuse containers, soak all non-paper containers for 10 minutes in 9 parts water, one-part household bleach, and then rinse them with fresh water. This will eliminate any undesirable bacteria and fungus.
Step 3. Soil Selection
Don’t overthink when selecting soil mix. Multipurpose compost is suitable for most seeds.
If you cannot get your hands on multipurpose compost, you could use your garden soil. Garden soil is not the best option for your seeds, but if you crumble it into fine soil or pass it through a fine mesh before using it, the seeds will sprout.
Step 4. Seed Sowing
When you have seeds, containers, and soil mix selected, it’s time to get to work. Below are the steps of the seed-sowing technique.
1. Moisten your soil mix before filling the containers. Use a clean bucket to mix your soil with water. Do not overwet your soil mix. A simple soil squeeze test will help you with this. If when you squeeze your soil mix, the water pours out, it’s too wet. If the water is slightly staining on the fingers, it’s just right. 
2. Fill containers with your soil. Fill containers to the top and tap them slightly to compact the soil. This will level the surface and leave a gap between the soil and the container’s top edge.
3. Place the seeds into the soil. If the seeds are large, they can be pushed down into the soil one by one. If the seeds are tiny, sprinkle them over the soil. If you are using a shared tray, make a row and drop the seeds in.
Pro Tip: Overseed! If you have many seeds, it is always better to place from 2 to 4 seeds into one hole. This technique will ensure that at least one of them will sprout. And if all seeds sprout, you can prick and replant them or keep the strongest and pinch the rest.
4. Cover the seeds with soil and gently firm the soil on top of the seeds. Proper planting depth is always written on the seed pack. But, if you don’t have the pack, the general rule is that the bigger the seed, the deeper it goes. The depth should be approximately 3 times the size of the seed.
5. Spray water over the soil. Use a spray bottle to moisten the soil. Do not overwater.
6. Label the containers with a variety and sowing date. This takes only a few minutes but will save you a lot of time later.
Optional: Cover your containers to keep the moisture in. Some containers come with a plastic cover. Alternatively, you can place a plastic bag or wooden board on your container.
7. Keep the containers in a warm, dark place and keep the soil moist. Most of the seeds need warmth and moisture to germinate. Place your containers in a warm location and regularly check if your soil is moist.
8. Wait till your seedlings come out of the soil. In most cases, the cover is enough to keep the moisture in the soil until the seeds germinate. Do a daily check and spray a mist of water if your soil looks too dry.
Step 5. Seed Germination
Most seeds will germinate without sunlight. The main things you require are Soil, Heat, and Water. Some seeds will grow quickly, others will take time, but most will take one to two weeks to emerge.
Seeds germinate much slower in cold soil. But, you will lose only a small number of seeds due to temperature. You might lose a lot of seeds due to lousy watering. So, check the moisture of your soil regularly. Do not overwater!
Pro Tip: Don’t feel bad if some seeds do not emerge. There is a possibility that some of them were damaged or just too old to germinate.
Step 6. Seedlings
Once the seedlings emerge from your soil mix, remove all the covers.
Place the containers on the sunniest windowsill (or you can use artificial light) to expose the seedling to the sunlight.
Looking after seedlings can be demanding, especially if they don’t get enough sunlight from one window. In this case, you need to move all your seedlings from one windowsill to the other and then back. On a positive note, this can help you keep an eye on the soil moisture (if the containers are heavy, they are full of water. If the containers are light, water them).
Seedlings have slightly different needs than seeds. Seedlings require Sunlight, Water, Fertilizer, and Space to grow. The steps below are broken down by the requirements for seedlings.
Most seedlings require at least 10 to 12 hours of sunlight. If your sunniest location does not have this, you might need to move your seedlings from one place to the other, or you can use artificial light.
If your seedlings turn dull-green or yellowish in color, it can signify a lack of sunlight.
Your seedlings will grow towards the light. They will start leaning to one side. Rotate the containers daily. This will ensure the seedlings grow straight up, preventing them from having weak stems.
The water requirement will depend on the size of your container. The smaller the container, the less water it can hold, and your soil will dry more quicker. So, if your containers are small, check them daily.
Do not water seedlings if the soil feels damp to the touch. Waterlogged soil will suffocate the plant. But If your soil is dry and you need to water your seedlings, spray water onto the soil, don’t pour water over the plant.
When seedlings become bigger, let the soil dry out slightly. The roots will grow in search of water, which will encourage better development of the root system.
As your seedling roots system starts to develop, water them from the bottom by adding water to a tray that your containers sit in.
Pro Tip: Overwatering can kill more seedlings than lack of water. Water it only when needed.
If you use multipurpose compost, you don’t need to add more fertilizer until the plants are much bigger. If you keep adding too much fertilizer, it could burn your plants.
If you use a seed starting mix or soil from your garden, you will need to add fertilizer. Add fertilizer when the second pair of leaves (true leaves) appear. Apply the feed ¼ of the strength weekly.
Step 7. Spacing Out
As with everything in this world, the bigger something grows, the more space it requires. Plants are no different. There are two ways you can space out your seedlings. Transplant them or Pinch them out.
If you use a shared tray or small container, you will need to move your seedlings to bigger containers. This will prevent seedlings from overcrowding.
You can transplant them (prick them out) as soon as the second pair of true leaves appear and the plants are big enough to handle.
Some seedlings are tiny and hard to handle. If that is the case, leave them for a bit longer until they get bigger.
Below is the step-by-step technique for spacing out (pricking out) your seedlings:
1. Water the seedlings before replanting. This will help loosen the soil around the roots for an easy pull.
2. Make a hole with a pencil or finger in the soil of your new container.
3. Pull the seedling out of the tray or container. Gently pull the seedling sideways, holding it by the stem close to the soil.
4. Place the seedling into the hole. Ensuring the roots are not sticking out above the soil.
5. Gently press the soil around the seedling, pushing the roots down.
6. Water the replanted seedlings. This will ensure that the soil falls into all the air pockets made during transplanting.
Pro Tip: After every transplanting, the plants might look a bit sad. But don’t worry. Give it a good watering straight after transplanting and a day to recover, and your plants will be happy once again.
Not all plants like to be replanted. Some will have to be Pinched out whether you want it or not. It is a straightforward process. Pick the weakest-looking seedlings and cut them or pinch them with your nails at the soil level. Now, other plants have more space to grow bigger.
Step 8. Hardening Off Your Seedlings
When your plants are big enough and the weather is warm enough, you will need to transplant your plants outside. However, your plants have never been outside and are not used to the harsh world.
So, before you transplant, your plants must undergo the Hardening off process. This is a straightforward process and should be done over the course of one or two weeks.
The steps below will reduce the shock to your plants when the growing conditions change.
1. Reduce the amount of water you are giving to your plants. Your plants need to be prepared for the possibility of a lower quantity of water when they are transplanted outdoors. Reduce, but don’t stop!
2. Gradually introduce your plants to the outside world. Your plants will most likely suffer if you just bring them outside and leave them there. Instead, place them outside for a few hours a day and then bring them back indoors.
3. Skip the bad days. Don’t bring your plants outside if the weather is really bad. Skipping a couple of days will not do harm.
4. Increase the time your plants are kept outside. Day 1 – 1h, Day 2 – 3h, Day 3 – 5h, Day 4 – 7h, Day 5… you get the idea… You don’t need to be strict. It’s only a guide. Don’t worry, you will not need to get up in the middle of the night to bring your plants in or out…
Pro Tip: When you carry the plants in and out, you will get to know the weight of the containers. If they feel light, plants need water. If they feel heavy – they don’t.
When you get to the point where you leave your plants outside for a full day, it’s time to jump to the next step.
Step 9. Transplanting Outside
A lovely day outside, and you are eager to go out and transplant your plants outdoors… Be patient, do one final check of your region’s last frost date, and transplant a week after that date.
Pro Tip: This is Important! If the frost hits your new plants and they are not frost-hardy, they will most likely perish. If that happens, you will have to wait to restart your garden the whole year.
After the last day of possible frost, you are ready to transplant your plants outside.
1. Pick a nice and cloudy day to transplant your plants outside, or you can also do this in the evening when the sun is not scorching hot.
2. Don’t water your plants before transplanting. The plants will easily slide out from the containers if the soil is dry.
3. Make a hole in the soil.
4. Gently take your plant out of the container. Invert your container while keeping your hand on the soil. Gently squeeze the sides of the container and tap the bottom. The plant should slide out.
5. Place your plant into the hole. Ensuring the roots are not sticking out above the soil.
6. Gently press the soil around the plant, pushing the roots down.
7. Water your plants heavily. Your plants might look sad after transplanting, but if you water them heavily straight after, they will spring back to life in a day or so.
8. Expect some losses. If there are no losses, great! But don’t get too disappointed if not all of your plants survive.
Pro Tip 1: Don’t rip out your plants straight away if they look like they did not survive. Some plants will lose their old leaves due to transplanting and start shooting new ones. Water them and give them a couple of days.
Pro Tip 2: Keep a journal and write the dates of transplanting. If something does not work out, adjust the following year.
Pro Tip 3: Slugs will probably be the first to check out your new garden. They will be the first ones to taste it too. Don’t forget to protect your new plants.
What to Do Next?
The work does not stop there. When you transplant your plants outside, they will still need your protection. You will have to protect them from pests and diseases. This is easily done by planting companion plants or attracting beneficial insects to your garden.
Also, check out our Growing Guides to learn more about how to grow plants of your choice. Get to know when to intervene. Learn and help your plants by reading these guides.
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