How to Start Vegetable Plants From Seed


Starting vegetable plants from seed is the best way to guarantee that you'll have fresh, delicious vegetables all summer long. Planting vegetable seeds also offers you the opportunity to grow vegetables that may not be available at your local supermarket. If you haven't planted vegetable seeds before, you'll enjoy not only the superb flavor and nutritional benefits, but the feeling of satisfaction that comes with harvesting your own vegetables.

Step 1

Select a sunny garden spot. Most vegetable seeds require sunlight for a minimum of six hours per day to germinate and grow, and will perform best with 10 to 12 hours. Choose a level spot, or a spot with a slight slope. Make sure the site is easily accessible, and that there is plenty of available water.

Step 2

Remove any weeds and large rocks. Water the area lightly, then use a hoe or a tiller to cultivate the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches.

Step 3

Purchase fresh vegetable seeds, as old seeds may not germinate. Vegetable seed packets will be marked with the recommended planting year. Use high-quality seeds, as substandard seeds will result in substandard vegetables.

Step 4

Read the seed packet carefully to determine planting time for specific vegetable seeds, as planting time will vary depending on the type of vegetable, and on the climate in your area. You can also check the 2BSeeds website (see Resources).

Step 5

Use stakes to create long, straight rows for the vegetable seeds. Drive two stakes into the ground, and tie a string to the stakes. Using the corner of a hoe, follow the string to create a shallow trench.

Step 6

Plant the vegetable seeds in the trench, then use the hoe to cover the seeds. Be sure not to plant the seeds deeper than necessary, as too much soil will block sunlight, and will cause the seeds to germinate very slowly. Tiny seeds such as lettuce, radishes and carrots should be covered with no more than 1/2 inch of soil. Mid-sized seeds such as chard and beets should be covered with 3/4 inch of soil, and larger seeds such as corn, beans and squash should be planted between 1 and 1 1/2 inches deep. Read the seed packet for specific instructions regarding planting depth.

Step 7

Water the vegetable seeds, using a watering can or a hose with a spray nozzle. Be careful to not overwater, as the seeds can easily be washed from the soil until they have roots to anchor them.

Step 8

Thin the vegetables when the seedlings are 2 to 3 inches tall. Remove smaller seedlings by pinching them off at ground level, allowing the larger seedlings more space to develop. Read the seed packet for specifics, as larger vegetables such as squash or corn will require more space than small vegetables such as lettuce or radishes.

Step 9

Fertilize the seedlings after thinning, using 2 teaspoons of water-soluble fertilizer combined with a gallon of water. One gallon of fertilizer mixture will be enough to feed a 5- to 10-foot row.

Step 10

Water the vegetable seedlings regularly, especially during hot, dry weather. Most vegetables require between 1 and 2 1/2 inches of water per week; see the seed packet for specific instructions.

Step 11

Pull weeds around the vegetable plants, or hoe the soil lightly. Weeds will compete with the vegetables for available nutrients and moisture in the soil.

Things You'll Need

  • Hoe or tiller
  • Fresh vegetable seeds
  • Stakes
  • String
  • Hoe
  • Watering can or garden hose with spray attachment
  • Water-soluble fertilizer


  • University of Tennessee: Growing Vegetables From Seed
  • Oregon State University: Growing Your Own

Who Can Help

  • 2B Seeds: When to Plant Vegetable Seeds
Keywords: growing vegetables, vegetable seeds, start vegetable plants

About this Author

M.H. Dyer is a long-time writer, editor and proofreader. She has been a contributor to the East-Oregonian Newspaper and See Jane Run magazine, and is author of a memoir, “The Tumbleweed Chronicles, a Sideways Look at Life." She holds an Master of Fine Arts from National University, San Diego.