How to Plant Vegetable Seeds & Starters

Overview

Starting a vegetable garden is usually done in spring. Most plants prefer to be planted after all danger of frost has passed, though some, such as spinach and broccoli, tolerate light frosts. Start most vegetables from seeds indoors and later transplant the seedlings out to the vegetable garden. You can also purchase starter seedlings from a nursery or garden center then transplant these out if you prefer not to start seedlings indoors. Most vegetable seedlings grow into healthier plants than seeds directly sown in the gardens.

Seeds

Step 1

Fill seedling pots with a quality potting mixture. Moisten the mixture evenly throughout before planting, but avoid making it soggy.

Step 2

Sow 2 to 3 seeds in the center of each pot to a depth twice that of their width. Sow small seeds on the soil surface and cover in ¼ inch of soil, then mist the soil with a spray bottle of water to moisten.

Step 3

Cover the pots with a plastic bag and set in a warm room (65 to 70 F) to germinate. Germination takes 7 to 14 days for most vegetable types.

Step 4

Remove the bag once sprouts appear. Place seedlings under grow lights, positioning the lights so they are 2 inches above the tops of the plants. Leave the lights on for 8 to 12 hours a day.

Step 5

Thin the seedlings to one plant per pot once they produce their second set of leaves. Leave the healthiest seedling in the pot and cut off the weaker plants with clean scissors right at soil level.

Step 6

Keep the soil moist at all times but not wet. Adjust the height of the lamps to maintain the 2 inch distance as the seedlings grow.

Starters

Step 1

Prepare a well drained garden bed in full sun. Lay a 3 inch layer of mature compost on top the bed then till the soil with a hoe or power tiller to a 12 inch depth.

Step 2

Harden off the transplants before planting in the garden. Place outside in a protected area for 2 hours the first day. Increase the time outside each day until they spend the full day sitting out on the seventh day.

Step 3

Dig planting holes deep enough so the transplants are planted to the same depth they are at in their nursery pots, except for tomatoes which are planted 1 to 2 inches deeper. Remove the pots from the transplants and set them in the planting holes.

Step 4

Firm the soil around the transplants then water the bed thoroughly. Keep the soil moist but not soggy, providing approximately 2 inches of water a week.

Step 5

Lay a 3 inch layer of organic mulch over the garden bed. Mulching preserves soil moisture and temperature while preventing weeds.

Tips and Warnings

  • Provide enough light and avoid over watering seedlings, otherwise they are prone to damping off. Plants such as carrots and legumes do best when directly seeded into the garden.

Things You'll Need

  • Pots
  • Potting soil
  • Spray bottle
  • Plastic bag
  • Grow lights
  • Scissors
  • Hoe
  • Power tiller
  • Compost
  • Mulch

References

  • University of Minnesota Extension:Planting the Vegetable Garden
Keywords: vegetable seeds and starters, transplanting seedlings, starting a vegetable garden

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.