How to Germinate Vegetable Seeds


A vegetable garden starts with a seed. Each plant has different light and moisture requirements but most vegetable seeds require the same things in order to germinate successfully. Starting your vegetable plants from seed saves money over nursery-purchased seedlings and also gives you greater choice in the type of vegetables you plant. Purchase seeds from local garden centers or from seed companies that cater to your region of the country to have the most success with your garden plants.

Step 1

Start most seeds indoors 4 to 8 weeks before the last frost in your area or after danger of frost has passed. Follow instructions on the packet for the particular plant variety when choosing when to plant.

Step 2

Fill starter pots or planting flats with seed-starting potting soil. Make your own by mixing one-part compost to one-part vermiculite.

Step 3

Moisten the soil thoroughly before planting, making sure it is evenly moist throughout. Avoid over-watering, and making the soil soggy; it should hold together when squeezed but shouldn't be muddy.

Step 4

Sow seeds in the pots or flats. Sow seeds to a depth twice that of their diameter. Plant small, fine seeds such as carrots directly on the soil surface, then cover with 1/8 inch of soil. Space the seeds as directed on the packet for each variety.

Step 5

Place the pots inside plastic bags or cover in plastic wrap to conserve moisture and heat. Place the pots in a warm place to germinate---light is unnecessary for most vegetable seeds at this time.

Step 6

Check the pots daily to make sure the soil is still moist and to look for seedlings. Vegetable seeds usually germinate within 7 to 14 days.

Step 7

Remove the plastic bags from the pots once the sprouts emerge. Move the pots to a bright, sunny window in a warm room and keep the soil moist at all times until you are ready to transplant the seedlings into your garden.

Tips and Warnings

  • Always remove the plastic immediately when sprouts appear or your seedlings will cook or be prone to fungal disease.

Things You'll Need

  • Pots
  • Compost
  • Vermiculite
  • Plastic bags


  • University of Illinois Extension
  • Washington State University Extension
Keywords: seed starting, germinating vegetables, garden basics

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. 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.