How to Start a Plant From the Seed


Most fruits and vegetables will grow directly from seeds harvested from the fruit. Choose seeds of plants that grow well in the local climate or grow tropical plants and trees indoors. Vegetables will germinate in a few days to weeks, while trees may take up to a year to germinate. When harvesting seeds from fruits and vegetables, remove seeds from fully ripe fruit and use as soon as possible. Start vegetable seeds indoors before the last frost date or sow directly into the garden in warm weather. Most seeds are viable for only one season.

Starting Seeds Indoors

Step 1

Start seeds indoors four to 12 weeks before the last frost date. Follow instructions on the seed packet to determine the best date for each plant.

Step 2

Fill a small pot or starter tray with moistened starter mix to within 3/4 inch of the top. Sow small seeds directly on top. Make a 1/8- to 1/4-inch deep row for larger seeds. Sow seeds in rows and cover seeds with a layer of starter mix two to four times as deep as the seed diameter. Sow two or three larger seeds in a small pot.

Step 3

Water the seeds and keep the starter mix moist, but not wet, until the seeds are ready to transplant.

Step 4

Place the tray in a sunny location or cold frame when the seeds begin to germinate. Thin the seedlings, removing the weakest plants.

Step 5

Water the growing plants with a 1/4-strength solution of water-soluble fertilizer after the leaves have emerged.

Step 6

Transplant the seeds into individual pots when the first true leaves appear. Gently separate the plants and place the seedling into the new container of potting mix at the same depth it was originally growing.

Step 7

Place plants in a sunny window or back into the cold frame. Continue watering daily and fertilize every two weeks with the weak water-soluble fertilizer solution.

Step 8

Move the plants outdoors gradually after the last frost date. Leave plants outside in a protected area for a few hours the first day, increasing the time outside gradually until the plants are able to remain outdoors. Keep the plants indoors on windy days or when temperatures drop below 45 degrees F.

Sowing Seeds Directly in the Garden

Step 1

Remove all grass and weeds from the site and till or dig the soil to loosen it. Protect the site from mowing and foot traffic.

Step 2

Plant fresh seeds according to the package directions, or plant at a depth of two to four times the size of the seed. Cover the seeds and water to moisten the soil and pack it slightly.

Step 3

Keep the soil moist, but not soggy, until the seeds germinate. Remove weeds by hand pulling immediately when they appear.

Step 4

Fertilize with a time-release balanced fertilizer once the plants have emerged. Follow the directions and fertilizing schedule on the label.

Things You'll Need

  • Seeds
  • Tray or starter pots
  • Seed starter mix
  • Small containers
  • Water-soluble fertilizer or balanced time-release fertilizer


  • NC State University Extension: Starting Plants from Seeds
  • University of Kentucky Extension: Growing Plants from Seed at Home
  • University of Missouri: Starting Plants from Seed
Keywords: growing from seed, starting seeds, planting seeds

About this Author

Diane Watkins has been writing since 1984, with experience in newspaper, newsletter and web content. She writes two electronic newsletters and content around the web. Watkins has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Clemson University. She has taken graduate courses in biochemistry and education.