How to Grow Vegetable Seeds in Containers

Some seed-starting supplies. image by Anonymous/, photo courtesy of Beth Taylor


Gardeners who sprout their own vegetable seeds in containers greatly increase their growing season and, therefore, the amount they can harvest. Keep seedlings and baby plants indoors and in optimal conditions until spring has arrived and the soil outside is warm.

Seed Germination

Step 1

Start with good-quality seeds that were prepared and packaged for the current year or season. Keep the seeds dry until ready to use. Pour warm water into a shallow dish with the seeds, and let them sit in a warm spot for an hour or two. This optional step softens the outer shell and helps the seeds germinate.

Step 2

Read the package that the seeds came in; it will tell you how deep to plant each seed. Some seeds should be pushed into the soil up to an inch; others are best left close to the top with no more than a quarter-inch of soil sprinkled on top. Use a good-quality potting soil that has nutrients for plants added to the dirt. Different potting soils are suited to different crops; choose one specifically for vegetable crops. Wear garden gloves when working with fertilizers and soils. Spread out containers on a work surface. Use jiffy pots, seed-starting trays or small plant pots. Clean yogurt tubs with a drainage hole punched in the bottom also work well. Some gardeners prefer jiffy pots because you can later transplant the small plant without removing it from the pot. Scoop potting soil into the containers until full. Wet the soil thoroughly. Add more soil and wet again; each container should be full of damp soil.

Step 3

Push seeds into the soil with a finger according to the seed packet's directions. If starting pumpkin seeds, there will be one seed per pot and the seed should be pushed down up to an inch. Tomato seeds, on the other hand, can be planted in groups of three and pushed down no more than a quarter-inch. Small, wet seeds are hard to work with. If necessary, remove gloves to plant seeds in the soil. Wash hands thoroughly when finished.

Step 4

At the very least, pots should be placed on a tray, covered with plastic wrap or plastic baggies and set in a sunny window. A tabletop greenhouse is an inexpensive investment that makes starting vegetable seeds in pots easier. The pots are placed in a container with a clear, plastic lid. This little greenhouse is best placed in a warm, sunny window. If lacking a good, warm spot for seed germination, use a heating pad. Most seeds will do well if the temperature is kept at 70 to 80 degrees F. The tabletop greenhouse is placed on the heating pad. Check soil daily for moisture and do not allow it to dry out. Mist water onto the soil with a spray bottle once per day, and replace the plastic lid or covering when finished. Watch for seeds to sprout within the time frame specified on the packaging.

Step 5

When the seedlings are mature enough (the time frame varies among different vegetable seeds), transplant them into larger pots. If using jiffy pots, simply scoop soil into a larger pot, plant jiffy pot directly into the soil and water. For other pots, turn the pot upside down and squeeze or tap. It is best to extract the contents in their entirety. If the soil does not come loose, slip a fork or spoon along the inner edge of the pot. After extracting a seedling from its soil, place it in larger pot of soil and water. Keep newly transplanted baby plants in a warm, sunny spot.

Things You'll Need

  • Seedling trays, jiffy pots, plant pots, or clean yogurt tubs
  • Good-quality potting soil
  • Vegetable seeds
  • Garden gloves
  • Small hand-held gardening shovel
  • Shallow dish
  • Warm water
  • Spray bottle
  • Tray or tabletop greenhouse
  • Heating mat (optional)
  • Plastic sandwich baggies or plastic wrap (optional)


  • Pumpkin Seed Germination
  • Productive Gardens Market

Who Can Help

  • More on Growing Vegetables from Seed
Keywords: sprout vegetable seeds, grown vegetables in containers, grow vegetable seeds indoors

About this Author

Samantha Hanly is an organic vegetable gardener, greenhouse gardener and home canner. She grows a substantial portion of her family's food every year. After receiving her bachelor's degree, Hanly embarked on a career teaching dramatic arts, arts and crafts, and languages. She became a professional writer in 2000, writing curricula for use in classrooms and libraries.

Photo by: Anonymous/, photo courtesy of Beth Taylor