How to Start Vegetable Seedlings


You don't need to buy vegetables in your grocery store's produce aisles when you can raise your own harvest of fresh veggies at home. Start vegetable plants from seeds to transplant and raise your own vegetable garden. Starting the seedlings indoors protects the seedlings from outdoor pests and harsh growing conditions that may slow growth and development.

Step 1

Fill a seed tray with potting soil. The ideal seed tray has compartments that measure 3 to 4 inches deep. If you don't have potting soil on hand, the University of Minnesota suggests mixing your own by combining one part sand, one part compost and two parts garden loam.

Step 2

Bury three vegetable seeds in each seed compartment, 1/2 inch deep and spaced equal distances from each other.

Step 3

Mist the seed tray with water twice daily or as needed to keep each soil compartment moist. The seeds will typically germinate within 10 to 14 days, though this varies according to the specific vegetable species.

Step 4

Pluck out all the seedlings except for the strongest and tallest one in each compartment after the seeds have germinated.

Step 5

Fertilize the seedlings. The University of Minnesota recommends mixing 1.5 tbsp. of 5-10-5 vegetable fertilizer in a gallon of water, then sprinkling 1/4 cup of this fertilizer-boosted water on each seedling every 14 days until the seedlings are transplanted into the outdoor soil.

Step 6

Harden the transplants to prepare them for the outdoor growing environment. Seedlings are typically ready for transplanting once they're a couple of inches tall. A week before transplanting, put the seed tray in a shady outdoor location. Each day, move it so that it's exposed to more and more sunlight, suggests Iowa State University.

Step 7

Transplant the seedlings into your outdoor garden bed after they've been hardened off. Dig a hole in your garden bed that's the size of the seed tray's compartment. Slide the seedling out of the compartment and into the hole. Repeat for all the other seedlings, spacing them according to the space needs for the specific vegetable species.

Step 8

Fertilize the transplants immediately after you've replanted them to ensure quick establishment, suggests Iowa State University. They recommend mixing 2 tbsp. of 12-12-12 fertilizer in a gallon of water and giving each transplant a cup of this liquid fertilizer.

Things You'll Need

  • Seed tray
  • Potting soil
  • Vegetable seeds
  • Spray bottle
  • Fertilizer


  • "Burpee: The Complete Vegetable & Herb Gardener"; Karan Cutler, et al.; 1997
  • University of Minnesota: Planting the Vegetable Garden
  • Iowa State University: Planting the Home Vegetable Garden
Keywords: start vegetable seedlings, grow vegetable seeds, germinate vegetable seeds

About this Author

Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.