Starting Seeds for Your Garden

Just do it.

When I move to a new home, I am not truly at peace until I have started my garden. We moved to this homestead almost three months ago, when the growing season was at an end, and I have been unsettled. At times the feeling has even bordered on anxiety. Until now.

I have started my seeds.

If you are a new gardener, starting plants from seed may seem overwhelming and intimidating.

“I might fail and kill the plants.” – Friend, every gardener kills plants.

“What if the seeds don’t sprout?” – Your seed packet has more seeds, try again.

“I don’t have the right supplies. It cost too much money.” – I will show you a budget friendly beginner’s approach.

“But, but, but…” – Just do it. You may succeed. You may even like it.

If you are brand new to gardening and paralyzed with fear at the thought of growing plants from seed, I encourage you to start with something easy. Go to your local store and pick up a packet of sugar snap peas or green beans. Zucchini and cucumber are also easy to start. Look around your yard for a sunny space with soil and poke them in the ground – peas in the spring or green beans, zucchini, and cucumber in the summer. The seed packet will have more information, but it is basically that easy. Each of these crops, when mature, will produce fresh food for 1-2 months. If limited in space get a bush (or patio) variety or provide a trellis for pole and vining varieties. Water regularly and you should be good. Either in failure or success, you will have learned something.

If you have been buying potted plants from your local garden center to fill your garden beds for a while and are ready to branch out, now is the time. What does your family like to eat? How much space do you have? Pick out a few seed packets a get ready for the adventure.

When should I start my seeds inside?

That depends on your growing zone. This is my favorite resource.


Type in your zip code and they tell you what to start/plant each month for your location. Provide your email and they send you planting guides at the beginning and middle of each month. Magic!

What do I need to get started?

The easiest and least expensive way to get started is with soil, seeds, and Solo cups. Use a soil designed for seed starting. Select the seeds right for your month. Poke drainage holes in the bottom of your Solo cups. Label your cup with the variety you are growing. I label the cup in two places and add a plant marker. Too often water has smudged, or sun has faded my label and I have no idea which plant it is. Label, label, label. Fill the cup with soil. Poke several seeds in. Cover with more soil and water. Cover the cups with plastic to retain heat and water. Tuck them away in a warm place and check on them daily. Once the seeds have started to sprout put them in a sunny window and watch them grow. I like to put my cups in recycled plastic containers to collect the drainage water.

In truth, there is a little more to it than that. But it is also that easy. Just do it.

For more detailed information you can listen to this podcast. Nicole Sauce, of Living Free in Tennesse, talks about this Solo cup method, but also explains more of the process.

In southern California I was able to start my plants outside. Here I am working inside because there is snow on the ground.

I put at least five seeds in each Solo cup. Usually, I will end up with most of the seeds sprouting. When they are about an inch or so tall, I will tease out all but one and transplant them into their own solo cups. This way I have more plants for my garden and if I have more than I need I give them away to neighbors and friends.

The seeds I started today:

Spring crops to go under row covers: broccoli (three different types) and cauliflower.

Summer crops to go in my hoop house: tomatoes (Black Cherry and my favorite, Amana’s Orange), peppers (four types), and eggplant (baba ghanoush, anyone?)

Confession: I am starting my seeds waaay too early for my growing zone. That is the experiment I am working on. I want fresh produce from my garden year around, so how do I make this happen? I have Mr. J working to build a hoop house and I bought some row covers so I can extend the season of my cool weather crops. And since this is my first garden here, I have a huge learning curve. But I am at peace because I have begun the process. I am doing something.

In the past, my peppers and eggplant have taken forever to get started so I wanted to get a jump on them. I always try to see how early I can start my tomatoes because you can’t beat a homegrown tomato.

This is just one set of seeds to start. I will be starting many more in the next few months.

Gardening is a grand experiment. It is trial and error. Success and failure. But in a day and time when the food in your grocery cart comes from all over the world, it is good to know that you have something right out your back door. Just do it.


Where I source seeds:

When I first started growing from seed, I purchased packets from my local grocery or hardware store. That is perfectly fine, if that is what makes it easy for you to get started.

After a season or two I began to seek out smaller companies that sell heirloom varieties. Here are two of my favorites:

Mary’s Heirloom Seeds: I have had great success with these.

St. Clare Seeds: Last year I discovered this company and I love their pro-life stance.