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How to Start Seeds in Potting Soil

By Jenny Harrington ; Updated September 21, 2017

Starting seeds indoors before it is time for outdoor sowing gives you a jump start on the garden season. It produces healthier, larger plants that are better prepared to handle the challenges of the outdoor bed when the time to transplant comes. Seed starting mixes are generally recommended because they are light and provide proper drainage and aeration to the young seedlings. Potting soil is less expensive and more readily available, so preparing it properly to use instead saves money.

Remove any large pieces from the potting soil, including bark and clods of soil that don't easily break apart. Use only new potting soil for seed starting.

Fill pots to within one inch of the rim with the potting soil. Water it so it is evenly moist throughout before planting.

Sow seeds on the surface of the potting mix. Sow the amount of seeds per pot that is recommended on the seed envelope for the particular plant variety.

Place one cup of potting soil in a fine mesh sieve and shake over a bowl. Use the finer soil that sieves out into the bowl to cover the seedlings. Cover seeds with one-quarter to one-half inch of soil.

Mist water on the top of the soil with a spray bottle. Cover the pots in plastic wrap and set in a warm room to germinate—approximately seven to 21 days depending on seed variety.

Remove plastic wrap once the seedlings emerge. Move the pots to a sunny window away from drafts.

Water as often as necessary to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Mist the top of the potting soil once daily, as it will dry faster than other seed starting mixes.


Things You Will Need

  • Potting soil
  • Containers
  • Sieve
  • Bowl
  • Spray bottle
  • Plastic wrap


  • Use vermiculite to cover seeds instead of potting soil, as it won't dry and form a crust like potting soil.
  • Sterilize used potting soil by baking at 180 F for 30 minutes.
  • Start seeds indoors four to eight weeks before spring planting date. The seed envelope usually has exact timing printed.


  • Use potting soil that has no fertilizer added, as this may damage young seedlings.

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.