12 Seed Starting Tips


Date: February 9th, 2016


Indoor gardening is growing in popularity with both the experienced green thumb and the novice gardener.


Seed Starting Supplies 

Before you dig in, read these tips!


Be Picky

Some plants are better suited for indoor germination than others – these are:


Vegetables: Basil, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chives, Lettuce, Onions, Peppers and Tomatoes.

Annual Flowers: Alyssum, Cosmos, Marigolds, and Zinnias

Perennial Flowers: Shasta Daisies, Columbines, and Hollyhocks


Timing, Timing, Timing!

Timing is everything! To begin, find out your location’s average last Spring Frost. This can be determined here.


According to the Farmer’s Almanac, on average, the last Spring Frost in Rochester, NY is April 29th. Using this date and the information from the Seed Starting Guide below, you can see that Tomatoes should be started 6-8 weeks before the last frost – or from March 11th until April 1st.



Weeks Before Setting Out

 Seedling Plant Date

(week of)

When to Set Out (Relative to Last Frost)

 Setting Out Date



March 27

1 week after

May 6


4 – 6

March 6-20

2 weeks before

April 17


4 – 6

March 6–April 3

2 weeks before

April 17-30


3 – 4

April 10–April 24

1 to 2 weeks after

May 8–15


4 -5

Feb. 28–March 13

3 to 4 weeks before

April 3-10



March 20

2 weeks after

May 15


4 – 6

Feb. 7–March 13

3 to 6 weeks before

March 20–April 10

Swiss Chard

4 – 6

March 6–20

2 weeks before

April 17


6 - 8

March 13–April 3

1 to 2 weeks after

May 8-15


Not seeing the crop you want to plant? Click here.



Obtain a flat or container that is 2-3 inches deep with drainage holes. Set into trays to catch the excess water that leaks through drainage holes.


Planting Medium

Use a seed starting mix that has the necessary blend of perlite, vermiculite and peat that plants need to germinate.



Moisten the soil and drop the seeds onto the surface of the mix. Space as evenly as possible and cover the seeds to a depth about 3 times the thickness of the seed itself. Most seed packets will have instructions if they vary from this general rule of thumb.


Bring the Heat

Keep the seedlings warm (around 70 degrees) to promote germination. Add a Humidity Dome or heat mat. Or, place near a radiator or air vent.


Let there be Light

Seedlings require 12-15 hours of sunlight to reach maximum potential. Containers should either be kept in a sunny spot or placed beneath fluorescent shop lights. If using artificial light, hang the lights approximately 2" above the seeds. As the plants grow, adjust the lights as needed. Consider using an electric timer to ensure the plants are getting the necessary light.


Dampen the Mood

Mist with water frequently or place the trays in water so the seed starting mix soaks up water.


Cool It

Once the seeds have germinated, the plants don’t require as much heat. Remove the heat mat and move away from radiators and air vents.


Feed the Needy

Fertilize as soon as the first leaves emerge. A Seaweed Fertilizer will promote healthy growth in vegetable plants.


Space Out

You may find that seedlings outgrow their containers and crowd one another – if this is the case, replant them in larger containers. Carefully remove the seedlings by using a Transplanter and handle by the leaves to avoid damage to the stems and roots.


Harden ‘Em

About a week before placing the plants outside, move the containers to a shaded spot (like a porch) for a few hours a day. Gradually increase their exposure to the outside elements and at the end of the week leave them out overnight. This helps acclimate the plants once they are outside fulltime. 

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