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Starting Seeds Indoors: Get Ahead in your Garden Game

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

For most annuals, starting seeds indoors is essential here in Minnesota to take full advantage of the shorter growing season. This applies whether you are growing spring, summer or fall crops. Here are six solid tips to make sure you start ‘em right!

  1. Follow the instructions on the back of the seed packet meticulously; don’t start your seeds too early or plant them too deep or too close together. Spring crops should be started at the end of winter and summer crops should be started during the spring. Some plants, like dill and garlic, do not like being transplanted. If the seed must be directly sown in the soil, the seed packet will indicate this.

  2. Soak seeds in warm water no longer than 24 hours before you plant them to help jumpstart the sprouting process. This is not essential, but helps the seed to sprout by weakening the hard outer coating of the seed.

  3. Plants need adequate room and correct light and temperature settings to grow. Below are some strategies for achieving this indoors:

    1. Get heat pads or indoor grow lights for your seedlings.

    2. The top of the fridge is generally warm enough for seeds to germinate.

    3. Windowsills generally aren’t a reliable temperature or have adequate light for seed starting, but a south-facing window for starting only a few plants might just be okay. (The air temperature needs to be above 60°F, which can be difficult near windows in early spring.)

  4. Start seeds in small, individual containers with holes for drainage at the bottom of the container. (Egg cartons make great seed starters.) Transplant the seedlings into a larger container when they get too big for their current container. When you see densely packed roots poking out from the bottom and the seedling beginning to tilt over, it’s time for a larger container.

  5. Keep the potting mix moist; add a small layer of water to the tray the seedlings sit in so they draw water from the bottom. Alternatively, you can mist them with a spray bottle. This waters the seedlings without disturbing the soil and the delicate root system beginning to grow. Be mindful of the amount of water you add to ensure you don’t over water or give your seedlings dampening off disease. If there is excess water at the end of the day, dump it off and add less water next time.

  6. Harden off your seedlings by placing them outside for increasing amounts of time each day for about a week before the date that you intend to plant them outside. Make sure to place them in an area with conditions similar to where you intend to plant them. This helps them slowly adjust to life in the great outdoors from your cozy, regulated home.

For more details, check the University of Minnesota Extension website (see link below) on starting seeds indoors.

List of materials needed to start seeds:


-Regular water supply

-Potting soil

-Grow lights (or other light source)

-Heat source (can be heat pads or a heater)

-Containers with drainage holes



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