It's Time to Start Seeds

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As I sit here writing this article, looking out at the cold rainy day, I’m dreaming of warm days in the garden. March 19th will be the first day of spring. With that being said, it’s time to start thinking about planning vegetable gardens. If starting a new garden, soil testing the site where the garden will go is a good idea. If it is an existing garden and the soil has never been tested, now would be a good time to think about testing it. Your local OSU Extension office can help you with soil testing.


Another gardening task to be thinking about is seed starting. Growing plants from seed is very rewarding and a lot of fun. Now is the time to start seeds, they can be started indoors under a grow light or in a bright window. I like to use grow lights because they produce a better seedling and many new windows don’t allow UV rays to penetrate through them.  I haven't always used grow lights, when I first tried growing seedlings I grew them in my window and they did ok.  They do get a bit leggy and they need turned often as they grow towards the light.


This is an example of my seed starting set up.


A few seeds that can and should be started indoors early are: Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, and Cauliflower to name a few.  Tomatoes, Peppers and Eggplant should be started in February and the others can be started later in March.


Pepper Seedlings


Tomato Seedlings, keep the grow lights close to the seedlings this will keep the seedlings from stretching to the light.


A few supplies will be needed when starting seeds:

  • Seed starting soilless mix
  • Seed starting containers
  • Labels
  • Spray bottle
  • Plastic wrap
  • Seeds

Optional supplies include:

  • Heat Mats
  • Thermostat
  • Lights
  • Timer
  • Plastic Domes


Supplies and spray bottle to mist soil


Seed starting trays filled with soil.


Labels - I cut up old yogurt and milk containers but you can use anything that won't dissolve in moisture.


Planted Seeds sitting in a container of water for a few minutes to moisten the soil.  This is how I water my seedlings until they are moved outside, this keeps moisture off the leaves reducing the risk of disease.


Grow lights and Heat mats


Thermostat to keep the heat mat from getting to hot.  The thermostat can be set at the ideal temperature the seeds need for germination. 


Timer for the lights.  Do not plug your thermostat into the timer.


When starting seeds, special seed starting kits can be purchased, however creativity is more fun.  A simple egg carton or any type of container with labels will work, just make sure to poke holes in the container for drainage.  Place the seed starting mix in containers and pre-moisten the soil.  Pick out seeds and poke them in the soil one seed per cell.  Make sure to label the seeds so that it isn’t a mystery when it’s time to transplant them.  Lastly, cover the seeds with plastic wrap or a plastic dome as this will create a mini greenhouse to help hold moisture and heat until the seeds germinate.  Once the seeds germinate take the plastic wrap or dome off and keep the container in a bright window or under grow lights.  Trays may need to be turned if the plants start to stretch towards the light.  Plants should also be given a little brush with your hand every day to help strengthen them up, this mimics the wind.


Freshly emerged seedlings.  I removed the plastic wrap so that the seedlings wouldn't rot.  I also removed the heat mats.


Freshly planted seeds on heat mats with plastic domes.



Once plants have gotten one set of true leaves transplant them to a lager container with one plant per container.  When the temperatures start to warm up gradually introduce the plants to the outdoors where they will become hardened off.  If you have questions please email me at Carri Jagger OSU Extension Educator - Morrow County.


For more information about seed starting visit: