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Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors Under Lights

Date Posted: March 29, 2017

Seeds of the Month Club by Mike the Gardener Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors Under Lights
photo credit: Mike the Gardener

It is that time of the year again when we break out the many packets of vegetable seeds and start them indoors to get a jump on the vegetable gardening season. For most, starting vegetable seeds indoors under lights is necessary because vegetable gardening season is so short. For others, like me, we do it, because well, who wants to wait to begin starting vegetable seeds outdoors and not do some gardening in those colder months.

In the video below, episode #254 of the Vegetable Gardening Show, I go through each part of my own personal grow light set up. Check out the video to see exactly what I do in my basement vegetable seed starting grow light set up.

When to Start Your Vegetable Seeds Indoors

There are a number of charts online that you can check out when you should start your vegetable seeds indoors, but a good rule of thumb and one I have been using for quite sometime, is to simply check the back of your seed packet and do some math.

On the back of just about all vegetable seed packets you will see column titled “Days to Germination” (or something similar). Take a look at an article I posted about How to Grow Black Beauty Eggplant from Seeds, and you will see what I am talking about. Take those number of days (the greater of the two, in the linked article it would be 20), and subtract that number from the final frost date as outlined on the USDA Plant Hardiness Map.

In my case, I am in zone 7a and my last frost date as noted on the USDA Plant Hardiness Map is April 30th. To start my eggplant seeds indoors, I would subtract 20 from 30 giving me an April 10th indoor vegetable seed starting date.

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How to Start Seeds in a Paper Towel

A common way to start vegetable seeds indoors, is to start them in a paper towel. Personally, it’s not something I do, but have done with the kids since they find it fun. I don’t cover this part in the video, but wanted to touch on it briefly. Basically you wet a paper towel, evenly space your vegetable seeds on that wet paper towel, and then place another wet paper towel on top. Leave this setup on a counter (somewhere with enough space), and in a few days you will start seeing the beginning roots popping out of the seeds. Once you see those, transplant them to a pot with a good organic potting soil.

Seed Starting Kits

There a number of seed starting kits you can buy. A popular one these days is using the seed starting pellets. They are inexpensive, the kids love them, and they do a great job for getting your seeds started. If had one con against them, it would be, that the roots of the larger seeds outgrow the pellet’s space rather quickly.

I like to use plastic seed starting trays with either plastic inserts or biodegradable Cowpots and an organic potting soil. There is no germination advantage using my method over something else, it’s just what I prefer doing.

One final note on seed starting kits, and you’ll see this in the video, I like to use humidity domes. These are the clear plastic covers that go over the trays. They help trap in the warm air creating a better environment for your seeds to germinate in.

#254: Start Your Vegetable Seeds Indoors with Mike's Grow Light Set Up

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How to Start Seeds Indoors in Egg Cartons

Starting vegetable seeds in egg cartons is another fun method that the kids will love. I personally do not do this as I own six chickens and need all the egg cartons I can get my hands on when I go to collect my eggs from the coop. Mother Earth News has a great article on this indoor seed starting method.

In the video I cover the rack I use, the lights, the bulbs and so much more. I also give you a look into the different seed starting kits as well as a couple of the humidity domes. Be sure to check out the video. You will see it is super simple to create an indoor vegetable seed starting setup.

Happy gardening!

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Mike the gardener

About the Author

Mike Podlesny is the author of the book Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person as well as the creator of the Seeds of the Month Club where members receive non gmo, heirloom variety seeds every month. You can listen to Mike each week on the Vegetable Gardening Podcast where he interviews gardening industry experts. Don`t forget to link up with Mike on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.


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If you want to learn more about Setting up a Grow Light System to Start Your Vegetable Seeds Indoors, check out below:


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Discuss Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors Under Lights on our Gardening Forum


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