Seed Starting for Beginners: The Complete List of Essentials

Seed Starting for Beginners: The Complete List of Essentials

Welcome to the wonderful world of seed starting!  

For many gardeners, the late months of winter through early Spring are characterized by staring out the window: thinking of annuals, and waiting for warmer weather. Checking our bulbs in February, thinking that this might be the lucky season where a warm streak in the weather isn’t immediately followed by a foot and a half of snow. “If the first day of Spring is March 19th, why can’t we finally get to gardening?!”  

We all go a little stir crazy as the season goes on, and getting something growing is the only cure we’ve found that can get you through the gray sludge weeks of winter. Seed starting is an easy way to get ready for the season, and is a very hands-on treatment for the winter blues. 

The tools you start with are an important factor in your plant’s success. Thankfully, there’s a whole world of seed starting supplies, and you can customize your setup based on your needs and what you’re able to accommodate!



The first step to seed starting, is to pick out your seeds! There are nearly endless options for what you can get started, but a few things to consider before choosing what plants to grow are what you like to eat (or what cut flowers you like to have), how long your growing season is, how hot your summer gets, and how much light your growing space gets. These can all impact the seasonal success of your garden, so choose varieties that work well with your space. 


Seed Starting Mix

The right soil for your seed starting is a key element of getting seeds started. There are a lot of mixes out there, and our Seed Starter Mix stands out. Our compost-based mix is OMRI-Listed, and trusted by professional growers for premium-quality results. Using compost as the base for our mix means that this living soil blend is driven by microbiology. Microbes work in your soil to make nutrients more bioavailable to plants at every stage. For seedlings, these microbes work hard to support more vigorous growth, improved root development, and grow healthier plants that are more resistant to transplant shock.  


Your Growing Container

How you get your seeds started can determine a lot of the care requirements of your seedlings, as well as the soil prep needed and how expensive seed starting can become. Thriftier gardeners can make recycled newspaper cups, use egg cartons, paper cups, or any similar container (we recommend poking some drainage holes at the bottom of your container if you go this route). You can also buy plastic seed starting trays or premade biodegradable cups to get seeds started. The most expensive option upfront (but possibly a money saver in the long run) would be to purchase a metal soil blocker to create your own soil blocks. This is a reusable tool that you can use to build your own blocks of soil where seedlings can grow without the need for plastic. Check out this demonstration from our expert Steve Stumbras to learn more about using a soil blocker.

Plant Markers

Some gardeners opt out of marking their seedlings, but we HIGHLY recommend having some kind of identifier for what seeds you’re growing. Seedlings become more distinct with age, but it can become tricky to tell young plants apart (especially when you’re growing different types of tomatoes, or if you have hot and bell peppers right next to each other). You can buy plastic, metal, or wooden plant stakes, or even use a popsicle stick or a plastic spoon. Add a craft to your seed starting routine, and get creative! 

Seed Tray and Humidity Dome

Many purchased seed-starting kits will come with a tray and a dome. The tray catches any water flow that drips out of the bottom of your pots, preventing messes and allowing for some air flow beneath your container or soil block. You can use a baking tray, aluminum tray, or plastic tray. For the best results, use a tray with slightly raised ridges along the inside of the tray. The humidity dome is essential for the germinating stage of plant growth, as ample moisture is what cracks the outer shell of the seed and allows your plant to germinate. An easy replacement for this is to use plastic wrap over your seed trays until you see your plants start to germinate. 

Spray Bottle or Watering Can

Seedlings require a lot of water throughout their growth cycle, so find the best watering method that works for you. A spray bottle is a great tool that’s gentle on seedlings in their early growth stages and allows you to only give them a little water as needed, whereas a watering can is great for seedlings that are a little more robust and need some extra water. 


A warm environment is the most important when you're trying to get your plants to germinate, but seedlings at any part of their growth will struggle if their environment is too cold. A cold growing space is also the perfect environment for harmful fungi and bacteria, which increase your risk of pathogens or damping off. A solution for heat may be as simple as placing your seed tray in the warmest room in your house. Some gardeners prefer to use a heat mat during early growth to promote germination. Your seedlings will germinate the best between 75-85 degrees, but should be moved to an environment between 68-75 degrees after emerging for strong growth. Too-warm temperatures during their development can lead to leggy seedlings. 



Light isn't that necessary during the germinating phase, but is ESSENTIAL after emergence. Placing your seedlings near the sunniest window in your house (preferably a south-facing window) may be all your plants need. Seedlings require about 12-16 hours of light per day, so you may need to supplement natural light with an indoor grow light. Insufficient light can lead to leggy seedlings or stunted growth. Luckily, there are many options for grow lights at different price points, so research the option that works best for you!


(Optional) Fertilizer

Though our seed starter is formulated with eight weeks of nutrients for your hungry seedlings, plants that are started a little too early in the season, or that you intend to pot-up before transplanting, will need some extra nutrients before they’re planted in their final home. If your seedlings are showing signs of nutrient deficiencies or stress, providing a light balance of microbes and nutrients can get them back on track. Our BIOACTIVE Liquid Biology Bundle is an easy to apply duo of microbes and nutrients that can help to improve the stress tolerance of your seedlings, as well as support root development for more vigorous seedlings. 

And that's it! With some seeds and a handful of supplies, you can easily get your garden started before your final frost date passes. Ready to get started on your seeds? Stay tuned for our next blog post for expert tips on preparing your soil and getting seeds planted!