How to Start Vegetable Seed


Starting a vegetable garden from seed gives you access to a greater choice of plant varieties and also saves money over purchasing seedlings. Some vegetables do best when directly sown in the garden, as this limits the chances of root disturbance. Other plants should be started indoors then later transplanted to the garden. Generally, cool-season vegetables, like lettuce, are direct sown and warm season vegetables, like tomatoes, are started indoors. Check the instructions on the seeds packet to verify what is best for the plants you are growing.

Direct Sowing

Step 1

Lay a 2-inch layer of compost over a full-sun garden bed. Till the compost into the top 8 to 10 inches of soil then rake the surface of the soil to break up any clumps that may inhibit seed growth.

Step 2

Plant seeds to a depth twice their width. Plant extremely small seeds, such as carrot, directly on the soil surface. Space the seeds at the distance recommended on the seed packet.

Step 3

Water the bed as necessary to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Use a mist attachment on the hose so that the water spray does not disturb the germinating seeds.

Step 4

Lay a 2-inch layer of organic mulch, such as straw, over the bed once the seeds have germinated and grown to about 4 inches tall. Mulching preserves moisture and prevents weeds, both necessary to healthy seedling growth.

Indoor Seed Starting

Step 1

Fill 2-inch deep seedling pots or a seedling tray with a moist potting mix. Use a fine-textured mix or a soil-less mix sold for seed starting for best results.

Step 2

Sow one to two seeds per pot or sow seeds spaced 2 inches apart in trays. Plant seeds to a depth twice their width. Plant small seeds on the soil surface and cover with 1/8 inch of soil.

Step 3

Cover the tray or pots with a plastic bag so that moisture is retained in the potting mix. Place the covered pots or tray in a warm room to germinate.

Step 4

Remove the plastic bag once sprouts appear. Move the seedlings to a warm, sunny windowsill and keep the soil moist until you are ready to move the plants outdoors.

Tips and Warnings

  • Always plant seeds when indicated on the seed packet, as plants started too late or too early tend to be weak and produce poorly.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Rake
  • Mist attachment
  • Mulch
  • Pots or trays
  • Potting mix
  • Plastic bag


  • Ohio State University Extension:Plant Propagation
Keywords: starting vegetable seeds, direct sowing, planting seeds indoors

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Dollar Stretcher." Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.