Skip to main content

Tips for starting vegetables from seeds

Its time to start planting for spring, and the cheapest way to grow your own vegetables is ito start from seeds (and even cheaper if you save those seeds yourself), rather than buying seedlings. Here are a few tips for starting seeds.

Plant into small pots in a dish rather than directly in the soil

For all my seedlings, I use shallow trays, and then depending on the size of the seedling, I may also put the seeds into toilet rolls and small pots for easier transplanting, or straight into the tray to be separated later. I prefer to use the shallow dishes so that there is always some water in the bottom of the dish to keep the seed-raising mix moist, otherwise a small pot may dry out too quickly. As the seedlings grow, I separate them and plant them into larger and larger pots until they are ready to go into the garden. I prefer this method to planting directly, as I find that slugs eat many of my direct planted seeds. I only plant root crops directly in the soil, as they don’t do well transplanted.

Use a decent seed-raising mix, but top it up with compost

Seed-raising mix is expensive, but it is nice and light and seedlings do so much better in seed-raising mix that in garden soil. You actually only need a thin layer of seed-raising mix around the seed, and below that you can fill up the pots with compost. This will also give the seedlings a good start and save you money (because you are of course making your own compost for free right).

Use a greenhouse so you can start seeds earlier

In my part of the world, spring is hot days and cold nights, we can still get a frost that would kill seedlings, so I keep mine in a small greenhouse. You can buy a small one pretty cheap, or make something from anything transparent, glass, fibreglass, Perspex, heavy plastic sheeting, whatever you have available. 


Plan your garden and prepare your planting area before you get the seeds out of the packet

Its much easier to handle the seeds if you have clean hands, you can put excess seeds back in the packet wihtout them getting dirty or wet, so they will last longer. I draw out a rough plan of my gardena nd what I want to plant where. Then I sort through my seeds and work out which ones I want to plant at that time. Then I have a look how many planting trays I have and I set up the trays ready to plant, with compost and seed-raising mix already filled in, and then I figure out how many seeds I can plant and get the packets out ready to go. That way I can get everything ready, then wash my hands and open the seeds. 

Leave the seeds on top of the soil until you’ve put them all out, and then cover them with seed-raising mix

I always leave th seeds sitting on top of the soil until I’ve finished the tray. Otherwise I have a habit of forgetting where I’m up to and putting seeds in the wrong place.

Make notes of what you planted where

I draw a rough diagram of each tray and note where I’m putting each variety of seed. Then if some don’t come up, I know that those seeds are no good and I won’t waste time planting them again. Also remember to put a marker in the tray, because if you turn them around in the greenhouse you will forget which end is which!

Use a spray bottle to water (and remember where the beans are)

I find that a watering can is just too splashy and can wash the seed-raising mix off your seeds. I use a spray bottle to gently mist the seeds instead. Don’t forget that beans and peas will rot if they are over watered, so they just need a good soaking when you first plant them and then leave them alone until you see spouts. It’s a good idea to keep these seeds separate, so you can water the ones that like water, and leave the beans and peas alone.

Some seeds need pre-soaking

You can improve germination of some seeds by pre-soaking them in a little water. Beets and chard (silver beet) are the main ones that I remember to soak, but apparently you can soak most large seeds and they should germinate more quickly and evenly. Honestly I often don’t do this as I plant seeds on the spur of the moment rather than having 12-24 hours to plan and pre-soak, but if I do remember, it does seem to work.

Do you start with seeds?  Any other tips to add?

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre


  1. I agree with your idea of using the seed raising mix just on the surface and last year I got one made of coir and it was a block that you re-hydrate. I just hydreated a little bit at a time as I needed it. I actually direct seed a lot of my plantings. I throw a bunch of lettuce and bok choy out and then they grow up quckily and tightly packed. (not leaving any room for weeds) I pick the leaves constantly and sow another crop as soon as I see an empty space. I have had trouble with silverbeet, maybe I will try soaking the seeds.

    1. good point, direct seeding the small seeds is quicker and it doesn't matter if you get heaps of them sprout as you can use the babies whole.

  2. Since we just started fall, I will have all winter to save toilet paper rolls! That looks like a good way to do it, thanks.

    1. haha, yes I have a box by the toilet and keep them and I get so mad if someone tidies them up!

  3. I have a little trick that seems so obvious but took me years of wasted seeds to think of - I sort the seeds and take out the few I want to plant and make labels inside, then take just the ones I am planting out to the shadehouse. It's made a huge difference to germination rates - means I'm never delving into seed packets with damp, dirty fingers. Sorting the Seeds

    1. oh yeah I read that post Linda, thanks for linking, it is a very good idea for those with dirty fingers!

  4. All great advice. I especially love your idea of writing down a plan of where the plants are to go in the garden and where you've planted the seeds in their containers. Many a time I've got over-enthusiastic and found myself with seedlings ready to plant and the space already taken up with something else.

    1. yes I have learnt that one the hard way too.

  5. This season I have had terrible germination for beetroot and silverbeet, so I will try soaking the next lot (due to be planted tomorrow). Thanks for the tip.

    1. it definitely makes a difference, also if you don't soak, they take longer to sprout, so you may have just given up before they sprouted :)

  6. I'm a direct sower but then I don't have a slug problem but I do have a possum problem so I've got wire cages all around the place.
    I direct sow to avoid bolting of root disturbance and shock but I dont think it's a guarantee.
    Also I'm a bit lazy so it I plant by seed at least then I don't have to plant again from seedlings. But each to their own.

    1. yes root disturbance in an issue, but that's where the toilet paper rolls helps as I just plant the whole thing in the ground and no need to touch the roots. If you have good success with seeds then that is just sensible and not lazy :) I would do the same if it worked here!

  7. Hello,
    I buy Vegetable Seeds Online India From Kraft Seeds for grow Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts from seed. Kraft Seeds have lot of variety of Winter Vegetable Seeds, Summer Vegetable Seeds and Flower Seeds.
    More Information Visit Here :

  8. I love the toilet roll idea, absolutely brilliant. Many good tips here thanks Liz and I agree, label label and further label :D


Post a Comment

Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at

Popular posts from this blog

What to do with eight acres

Behind the scenes of my blog I can see the search terms that led people to find my blog.  It can be quite interesting to look through them occasionally and see what people are looking for.  Most of them involve chicken tractors, but another question that comes up regularly is “what can you do with eight acres?” or “how much land is eight acres?”.  Today I will try to answer this question.

Of course it is a very broad question, there are lots and lots of things you can do with eight acres, but I’m going to assume that you want to live there, feed your family and maybe make a little extra money.  I make that assumption because that’s what I know about, if you want to do something else with your eight acres, you will need to look somewhere else.

If you haven’t chosen your land yet, here a few things to look for.  Focus on the things you can’t change and try to choose the best property you can find in your price range.  Look for clean water in dams, bores or wells, either on the property …

We don't have any cling wrap either

Last week I wrote about how we don't have a microwave and I really don't miss it.  So continuing the theme of "weird things about my kitchen", we also don't have any plastic cling wrap or paper towels.  And we haven't had them for so long I can hardly remember why we ever needed them.

I always thought that cling wrap was wasteful.  Not just from an environmental perspective, but I also didn't like spending money on something that I only used once.  When I was at uni and took sandwiches for lunch, I used to bring home the cling wrap and use it again until it didn't stick anymore.  One year when we did Plastic Free July (I can't remember when exactly - here's what I wrote last year) we decided to stop using cling wrap.  I used up the last of it recently when we were painting (its really hard to renovate without creating waste) - its handy for wrapping up paintbrushes and sealing paint temporarily, however I do not use it in the kitchen.

The pape…

Getting started with chickens - Tanya from Lovely Greens

Sign up for my weekly email updates here, you will find out more about soap and our farmlife, straight to your inbox, never miss a post!  New soap website and shop opening soon....

Farmer Liz: You will remember Tanya from Lovely Greens from the first series, she lives on the Isle of Mann and added chickens to her garden about a year ago.  You can leave comments for this post on Tanya's blog.

How many chickens (and other fowl) do you keep, what breed and what do you use them for (meat, eggs, slug control etc)?
Tanya: Around the same time that we were initially thinking about having hens another friend beat us to the punch. She went to the local pet store and bought a flat-pack hen house and chicken run combo and found a local farmer who had dozens of semi-feral chickens running around his property. One night he pulled three down from the trees and my friend took them home in a pet carrier. She named them Miracel, Carmen, and Geraldine and though they’re probably related they were all…