Starting Seeds Indoors (Update)

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21 Responses

  1. Emily says:

    This means your plants are “leggy”–long and spindly. This is because they are “reaching” to get the light. Indoor light is not nearly as intense as natural light (hence, no sunburns inside), and does not provide enough energy for vegetables to grow in a healthy way.

    To be effective, your grow lights should be 1-2″ above the plants, be on 12-16 hours a day, and the plants should have some period of darkness.

  2. Pa67 says:

    My plants are growing tall and spindlely. We only put the grow light on at night, as there is plenty of light thru the day. My seeds all start, just have the real tall thin stalks–can you help?

  3. Emily says:

    I fertilize every 4-6 weeks. If you used potting soil with plant food (ie: fertilizer) in it, you shouldn’t need to add anything for at least a month. If not, maybe 2 weeks after they germinate.

  4. holman says:

    when should i first start feeding the plants after they germinate

  5. Brook McDonald says:

    Hi there. So I became a fan of square foot gardening last year when I tried it and it um actually worked for me!!! Whoo hoo. My brown thumbs could never have been greener. I actually fell I can do this stuff. Anyhoo, I found your site and LOVE it.

    I refer to it a lot and as a thanks I thought I would share another web site with you that I have found to be very interesting. This guy does a lot of little tests on the best of this and that and gardening is a big area for him. Here is a link where he show which indoor lighting method is the best and why. The results are impressive and have me totally convinced. He goes about things in a VERY scientific un biased way. He even has a link on the best tasting tomato viarieties… my personal fav. Enjoy -Brook

    Hope you really like it 🙂

  6. Emily says:

    I think with lights and a heating mat in your garage you will be okay. Just be sure you have a thermometer that you can monitor the temperatures. As for the deck option, you’d need a way to keep it about 70 degrees–that’s the ideal germination temperature. I think a permanent greenhouse would work, but anything temporary might not have enough protection from the cold.

    Good luck! Emily

  7. Juliana says:


    I started my seeds indoor last year with great success. But this year I don’t have the ‘room’ available anymore. I am thinking of putting the shelves and lights in our garage. The problem is that is NOT insulated and is cold (I am in UT too.). Do you think I will need a heating mat underneat the trays? Another option is a greenhouse in our deck, but again, I am afraid the night temperatures will kill everything!! Any advice?? Garage with lights + heating pads or greenhouse (do I need the lights above?) Thanks for your GREAT help!!!

  8. Emily says:

    I’ve thrown away entire batches and started over almost every year. It’s great to read books and websites, but nothing helps like experience! I watch the peat pots–they change color as they dry out. I water when they seem to need it–not totally dry. If you are using regular pots, you’d stick your finger down about an inch and it should still be somewhat moist. Try that with your peat pots, and then notice what they look like when they’re ready for some water.

  9. Alison says:


    I definitely think that I drowned my poor little seeds. I replanted yesterday and took out all the water. My containers are pretty big and there aren’t even plants in there to soak up all the water, so I put a little lid under the plants and only a small amount of water. Do you wait until the pots are dry to the touch before you water again?

  10. Emily says:

    Alison–First, let me clarify that I live in Utah where it is DRY DRY DRY. So over-watering was never a problem, I just waited 24 hours for stuff to evaporate. But depending on where you live, you do want to be careful not to water too much. Especially when just planting, when you often cover everything up to keep it humid. If there’s too much moisture your seeds will rot. If you are worried, pour out or soak up some water with a towel.

    In general, that is how I water–just pour it in the bottom of the tote and let it soak up. But I only water when the peat pots are looking dry–that’s one thing I liked about them, it’s easy to see when to water. Just play it by ear at first, and you’ll figure it out!

  11. Alison says:


    I’m hoping you can clarify the starting procedure a bit. I’ve started my parsley & cabbage in the garage . . . but I’m afraid I may be drowning them. How do you water when they are in the tote? I have standing water in the bottom & the peat pots are quite wet.

  12. Emily says:


    I bought the cheapest ones. Then I bought two different bulbs, a warm and a cool. That should provide full-spectrum light without paying a ton for light bulbs!

  13. michelle says:

    I just found a video on youtube that readers might find helpful for building their own light stand… i thought I’d share. 🙂

  14. michelle says:

    Hi Emily, 🙂

    I am getting excited to get my seeds started this year. I’d like to use grow lights but I was kind of confused when I got to home depot and started looking at the shop lights. I’d love to duplicate your system but I can’t figure out which shop light to buy. Could you give me some pointers on which ones to buy? Thanks so much for all of your help!!


  15. Emily says:

    My seed starting operation is in my unfinished basement, so I hung mine from the beams in the ceiling. I used half rope, half chains (so it was easy to move up and down).

  16. Emily says:

    Just tall enough to fit your pots in and then get the lid on. You mostly keep the lid on until they sprout, and then you want to be able to get your lights really close to the plants (like 1″ above). So it just depends on the size of your pots!

  17. Marzy says:

    I’m so excited to start my seeds this spring! I have one question for you. What did you hang your shop lights on? Did you build a stand?

  18. Alison says:

    How high do your totes need to be?

  19. Emily says:

    I use a couple. First is ferti-lome Blooming & Rooting plant food, which is 9-59-8. I also use Miracle-Gro Tomato Plant Food, which is 18-18-21. I’m still experimenting with fertilizers (both organic and chemical) and once I’ve come to a conclusion I’ll write a post on it!

  20. michelle says:

    What fertilizer do you use for your indoor transplants?

  21. Marzy says:

    Thats a FABULOUS idea! I may try that next year. The peat pots and plastic containers would have been much easier on both the plants and myself. I used one of those self watering seed trays. Although everything was there in a nice convenient little package…it was difficult to get the seedlings out of the tiny squares.