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How to Germinate Vegetable Seeds Indoors

By Jenny Harrington ; Updated September 21, 2017
Start seeds indoors for an early start in the garden.
seedling image by Wojciech Gajda from Fotolia.com

Starting vegetable seeds indoors allows you to get a head start on the gardening season. Plants started inside go out into the garden larger and healthier than their direct sown counterparts. In areas with a short growing season, starting your vegetable seeds indoors gives plants that take a long time to mature the necessary time to reach harvesting. Follow seed packet directions for the exact time to start each vegetable variety indoors.

Fill 3-inch diameter seed pots with a moist soil-less potting mixture. Make your own soil-less mix by combining one part peat moss, one part sand and one part sterile compost.

Sow one to two vegetable seeds in each pot. Plant them to a depth twice their width unless the seed packet indicates they need light to grow. In that case, plant the seeds directly on the soil surface then press on them with your finger so they are in contact with the soil.

Sprinkle water on the soil surface to dampen it. Cover each pot with a plastic bag and place them in a warm, 75 degree room to germinate. Place seeds that require light to germinate in a brightly lit room.

Remove the plastic bag once seedlings emerge from the soil, usually within seven to 21 days after sowing. Move the pots to a windowsill where they receive at least eight hours of sunlight a day and temperatures are between 65 and 70 degrees.

Water the seedlings when the soil surface begins to feel dry. Add just enough water to moisten the soil without making it soggy.

Fertilize seedlings once a week with a quarter-strength application of soluble fertilizer. Begin fertilizing in the second week after seed germination.

Place the seedlings outside to harden seven days before transplanting them to the garden. Place the seedlings in a protected area outside during the day.


Things You Will Need

  • Pots
  • Potting mix
  • Peat moss
  • Sand compost
  • Plastic bags
  • Fertilizer


  • Some plants, like cucumbers, don't transplant well. Start these in peat pots, as these pots can be planted directly in the garden with no root disturbance.


  • Seedlings that receive too little light tend to die. If you don't have a suitable window place the pots under a grow light for 14 hours a day.

About the 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.