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Adventures in Gardening: How and When to Start Seeds


I received my seeds in the mail last week! Aren’t they pretty?


I’ve been researching for a while now the least expensive way to start seeds. I’ll share with you what I’ve discovered.

When to Start Seeds:

Figure out when the last frost date is in your area and count back 6 to 8 weeks from there. This gives your little plants enough time to grow and get big enough to survive the transplanting and life outside. The last frost date in south Georgia is March 31st, so I am cutting it a little close by getting my seeds planted so late. Let’s hope they grow quickly! I’ve asked advice from local gardeners at my church and they said that putting my plants out in mid-April would still be okay. I am in a race against the summer heat, though. I want my plants to get big enough before it starts getting super hot this summer, so I need to get them in the ground early enough to do that. Most of you will have a much later last frost date than this, so you still have a little bit of time. (But not much, so be planning now!)

How to Start Seeds for Your Garden

Now that you know when you need to plant your seeds, you need to know how to do that. I’ll tell you what I did and then link to some other ideas.

1. You need seeds. I know you are thinking, “Duh.” However, just remember to get them ordered on time. Baker Creek was taking a bit longer to get orders out than normal because they’ve had so many orders. (Although I still got them within a week, which is fine by me.) Other places will be deluged with orders too, so plan ahead!

2. You need some potting soil. There are all different kinds of potting soil and there are specific kinds for starting seeds. However, I wanted something that was organic (read: no fertilizer added to the soil) and very inexpensive. I stopped by Lowe’s one evening and found that they had their bags of organic potting soil on clearance! It was less than all of the other kinds of potting soil too. Yay! Besides, I read that you don’t want fertilizer in the soil when you are starting seeds because it could cause them to grow too quickly and cause you to have leggy seedlings.


My little helpers and I breaking up the clumps in the potting soil.


They liked that Mommy was encouraging them to get their hands in dirt.


Getting the soil slightly damp before putting it into the pots.

As an aside, I am indeed wearing Crocs while doing this task. I believe that gardening is one of the only appropriate occasions to wear Crocs. If I know you well enough, I will (nicely) harass you about wearing Crocs in public.

3. Locate some containers to start your seeds in. This is where the whole process can get pricey. However, you don’t really need all of that stuff that stores and seed catalogues sell. Any type of container that will hold dirt and that will allow drainage will suffice. I used old yogurt containers and disposable plastic cups and poked holes in the bottom of them. I’ve seen others use newspapers and even toilet paper rolls! There are lots of frugal ways to start seeds.

4. Plant your seeds. Read the instructions on the seed packet to determine how deep to plant the seeds. Also, make sure that the seeds do indeed need to be started indoors. For example, I am not starting the green beans, the melons, and a few other things inside. They can be direct planted into the ground just fine. In fact, they’ll do better if I direct plant them, rather than starting them and then transplanting them. Also remember to label what you planted! I used a permanent marker and wrote the name of the seeds on popsicle sticks.




5. Wait for them to grow. You can sing to them if you want to while you wait. (Anyone else see the old Frog and Toad movies where Toad sings to his garden? “Sweet little seeds, why won’t you grow? Are you afraid of me, why won’t you grow, grow, grow, grow?” Its classic, but I can’t find it anywhere online.) You just need to provide a place that is warm enough for them to germinate. You’ll need to keep them moist (but not too wet.) You may need to put some plastic baggies or something over the pots to keep moisture in. In the picture below you can see that I’ve used packaging from Sam’s Club for this purpose. (A spinach container, three cake containers, and a rotisserie chicken container! I’ve got a couple more containers in the fridge waiting to have all of the spinach and spring mix lettuce eaten before I can put them to good use.)

6. They’ll need light after they start growing. Either a grow light or natural light from a window. I’m still working on this part. I have one grow light, but I don’t think its going to be enough. (I may need to move some of the plants to a different window or try to find an inexpensive light.)


Now, I need to wait and see what happens! It seems like tomatoes are the hardest to start from seed from what I’ve read, so worst case scenario is that I’ll have to go to the store and pick up some tomato plants. I also only used a tiny bit of the seed packets, so if I have trouble with some of the other stuff, I can either try direct planting it in April, or I can try again in the fall. (South Georgia has a very long growing season.) I can try again next year too. Like I mentioned before, this whole thing is a learning process—for me and my two kiddos.

Anyone else starting any seeds? Any experienced gardeners have any tips for me?

  1. Karie permalink
    02/28/2011 5:32 am

    Hey, I have a plant light-bulb you can borrow. I’ve used it off and on for several things but should have lots of ‘light-hours’ left. Remind me and I’ll give it too you. Oh, and harass away, I’m a Croc lover and wearer through and through. Their flip-flops are my summer staple-‘get used to it baby’! :-)

    • Kate permalink*
      02/28/2011 9:26 am

      Yay for the light bulb! Thanks!
      And the Crocs flip-flops aren’t hideous. Some of their kids shoes might even be described as “cute.” The kind I am wearing in the picture above is most definitely garden attire only and the kind that I like to harass people about. Feel free to (nicely) harass me about my shoes too. :)
      (For those of you who don’t know me and are reading this, rest assured that this is all in good fun. :) )

  2. Aunt Carol permalink
    02/28/2011 8:56 am

    I am SO envious of your shorts and summer clothes! Except for cleaning out all the winter debris in the flower beds,I can’t think of gardening for another month. Where were you when your parents were growing giant tomatoes and green beans and incredible flower gardens??? (I think in your YOUTH–when there were much more interesting things to do!!!) Love the pics of the kids–they will be good little gardeners. Hugs and stuff…….AC

  3. grace permalink
    02/28/2011 9:38 am

    oh kate, can’t wait to watch ‘your garden grow’…and the adventures along with it! the kids will have a blast, and wow, fresh food…yum! i put our starters in the kitchen on the counter (took up WAY too much room, but worked quite well!)… love this, and love you…grace

  4. 02/28/2011 3:25 pm

    Look at your cute little plants!!! So fun! I am ignoring all the Croc stuff….but I did notice that karie likes ’em, too. Apparently, you are destined to be friends with “that” kind of person.

    • Kate permalink*
      02/28/2011 9:55 pm

      Well, then Crocs people are the best kind then! Perhaps I should start looking at people’s shoe choices before I introduce myself to them. :)

  5. Emma permalink
    03/02/2011 10:14 am

    I was looking at your first photos of seed packets, thinking ” You know what? I think those must be seed packets from Baker Creek, they look so familiar.” Sure enough! Congratulations on buying the best quality, best value for price seeds to be found anywhere! I hope you have a smashing success like I’ve had!

  6. Becky B permalink
    03/04/2011 7:11 pm

    Hey Kate, it looks like you are growing purple peppers. I tried that two years ago, in my first garden, and mine tasted just like green peppers. I also planted really late, so they didn’t get as brilliantly purple as I had dreamed though. I’m really curious to find out what your’s are like. Keep us posted! <3


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