How to Sprout Seeds for a Vegetable Garden


Seeds are the most inexpensive way to start your vegetable garden, and they offer the most variety of plants to choose from. When sprouting vegetable seeds, think of them as belonging in two categories---cool season crops and warm season crops. Direct-seed cool season crops, such as lettuce and peas, directly in the garden. Start seeds for warm season vegetables, such as peppers and tomatoes, indoors, then move the seedlings to the garden once the weather warms up.

Direct Seeding

Step 1

Prepare the garden bed in fall before the first frost. Remove any garden debris, then lay a 3-inch layer of compost over the bed. Till it in to a 10- to 12-inch depth.

Step 2

Loosen the soil in spring before planting by breaking up any clods with a hoe or rake. Begin planting as soon as recommended on the vegetable varieties seed packet---early spring for most leafy vegetables and once the ground begins to warm in late spring for peas and legumes.

Step 3

Sow seeds directly into the garden. Plant most seeds to a depth twice that their width. Space plants as recommended on the seed packet.

Step 4

Keep the soil moist but not soaking wet, watering as necessary to maintain the moisture. Lay a 2-inch layer of organic mulch over the beds to preserve moisture, prevent weeds and maintain soil temperature.

Step 5

Wait for sprouts to appear, 7 to 14 days for most vegetables. Weed regularly so the seedlings don't have competition for nutrients.

Indoor Sprouting

Step 1

Fill individual seedling pots with a quality seed-starting mix. Start most seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the recommended outdoor planting time on the seed packet.

Step 2

Sow two seeds per pot to a depth twice that their width. Sow small, fine seeds directly on the soil surface and cover with a 1/8-inch layer of soil.

Step 3

Water the soil until it is evenly moist throughout. Cover with a plastic bag and set in a warm, 65- to 70-degree-Fahrenheit room to germinate.

Step 4

Remove the bag once sprouts appear, approximately 7 to 14 days after sowing. Move the seedlings to a sunny window or place under grow lights.

Step 5

Keep the soil moist at all times, but not soggy. Empty the drip tray under the pot whenever it has collected water to prevent disease organisms from growing.

Step 6

Thin the seedlings so only the healthiest one remains in each pot. Cut off the weaker seedlings at soil level with small scissors.

Step 7

Transplant outside once all danger of frost has passed in your area or when recommended on the seed package.

Tips and Warnings

  • Damping off is a fungal disease that causes seedlings to wilt and die. Use resistant seed varieties and avoid over-watering to prevent.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Hoe or rake
  • Seeds
  • Water
  • Mulch
  • Pots
  • Potting soil
  • Plastic bags
  • Grow lights
  • Scissors


  • University of Minnesota Extension
Keywords: sprouting vegetable seeds, starting seeds indoors, direct sowing vegetables

About this Author

Jenny Harrington is a freelance writer of more than five years' experience. Her work has appeared in "Dollar Stretcher" and various blogs. Previously, she owned her own business for four years, selling handmade items online, wholesale and via the crafts fair circuit. Her specialties are small business, crafting, decorating and gardening.