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Grow Veggie Plants Blog
Welcome to my blog! I will be sharing ideas and tips on growing veggies
and updating the progress of my own garden!

Once you have researched the timing and gathered your equipment, it's time to plant! Read on for step-by-step instructions for successful seed sowing.

Prepare your seed starting mix

It is essential to thoroughly moisten your seed starting mix before planting. Add as much water as the mix will comfortably hold. A good guide is to squeeze a handful of mix. If it sticks together in a clump, it is good to go. If water runs out between your fingers, it's too wet. In this case, either add some more dry mix or wait until some of the water has evaporated.

Fill the containers

Next, add the moistened seed starting mix to your pots or seed trays. Leave about a half-inch of room at the top. Press down gently to remove any air pockets.

Sow the seeds

Most seed packets will have instructions on how deep to plant the seeds. A good rule of thumb is to plant seeds at a depth of two times the width, or diameter, of the seed. For example, if you have a seed that's about 1/16 inch thick, it should be planted about 1/8 inch deep. Larger seeds like beans may need to be planted as deep as 1 inch. Poke a hole in the surface and add 2-3 seeds. This will ensure that you get at least one viable plant in each cell. Cover the seed with potting mix and gently pat down.

Add water

Be careful not to overdo the water or you will wash the seeds or the soil away. Typically, a watering can will be too forceful unless it is fitted with a fine sprinker head. A great option to use your kitchen sink faucet to gently sprinkle the top of the soil so it is damp, but not drenched. You can also add some warm water to the bottom of the tray. The water will wick up into the soil from below and keep the seed starting mix moist. Remember, seeds need moisture to wake from their dormant state, so it's important to make sure the mix is good and wet.

Label and cover

Be sure to label each tray so you know which seeds are growing in them. Trust me, you won't remember a week or two later and all seedlings look alike when they first emerge! Cover the flat with a dome or plastic wrap in order to maintain humidity and warmth.

Add warmth

If you have a heat mat, set the tray on top and plug it in. Heat mats are designed to only add the necessary warmth. You can leave them on 24 hours per day until the seedlings sprout. If you don't have a heat mat, place the tray in a warm area of your home, such as the top of the refrigerator, preferably to keep the tray at least 75 degrees.

Be patient

Waiting is the hardest part! Most seeds will emerge within a week or two. Try to refrain from removing the dome too often to check on them or you may need to add additional water. Once about half of the seedlings have emerged, remove the cover and put them under the grow light.

Growing your own plants from seeds is an amazing experience! Keep in mind that some varieties of seeds have low germination rates or other requirements that make starting them more challenging. Each time you go through the process, you will learn and get better at it, so don't give up!

In my next blog, I will share some updates from my own seed seed-starting adventures this year and in upcoming posts, I will provide more information about how to care for your seedlings to prepare them for transplanting outdoors!

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To start seeds successfully indoors, you'll need to invest in some basic supplies and equipment. The good news is that many of these items can be reused year after year, so you can think of it as an investment in the future. Plus the money you will save in starting your own plants will more than offset these costs in the long run. So what will you need?

Seed Starting Mix

There are plenty of options for seed-starting mix on the market. Just be sure you don't use garden soil or heavy potting soil to start seeds. You want to make sure the mix is lightweight, organic, free of bark and other matter, and provides a good mix between air space and moisture retention. In fact the best mixes don't actually contain any soil at all! There are many good brands, but I recommend Hoffman's Seed Starter Potting & Planting Mix. Alternatively, you can make your own DIY mix and save money. A good formula is 1 part Sphagnum Peat Moss (or Coco Coir), 1 part Vermiculite, and 1 part Perlite. These 3 ingredients are easy to find and contain everything you need to make an excellent seed-starting mix.

Seed Starting Containers

While it's fun to try interesting DIY options like yogurt cups, empty toilet paper rolls, and egg cartons, it will make your life a lot easier if you get a few plastic flats and some seed-starting trays. Flats are large rectangular trays that hold several seed trays. You will want to make sure the flat comes with a clear humidity dome, which helps the seeds to germinate faster. Seed trays are made of individual cells, which keep your plants separate and spaced out properly. I find that using 6-cell trays is much easier than 72-cell trays. Since your seeds may germinate at different rates, having them in smaller trays gives you more flexibility. I have used these inexpensive trays with good success. You can also opt for Jiffy peat pellets. Add some warm water and these little discs of compressed peat moss swell up into perfect little planters.

Heat Mat

Some veggies, such as peppers and tomatoes, will germinate much more successfully in soil that has been warmed to 70-75 degrees. A heat mat is a great way to give your seeds the warmth they need. Keep in mind that once the seeds sprout, you will want to remove them from the mat, as they will prefer cooler soil at that point. Another great option is a kit like this one, which includes flats, domes, seed trays, and a heat mat. If you don't want to purchase a heat mat, you can place the seed trays in a warm area of your home or even on top of the refrigerator!


While you might be tempted to try growing seedlings in a sunny room in your house, the truth is, you really do need to invest in some grow lights. Seedlings typically need 14-16 hours of light per day in order to grow healthy and strong. There are so many options now for quality and inexpensive grow lights. One thing to keep in mind is that you need to be able to get the light as close to the seedlings as possible (preferably 2-6 inches), so an adjustable light on a rack like this one is a great option. If you are short on space, a floor-standing option like this will work as well. You will need to adjust the light as the seedlings grow, as they could burn if they get too warm. I have all of my grow lights on timers (wifi plugs are the best!) so I don't have to remember to turn them on and off each day.

Now that you have the essential tools of the trade, let's talk about sowing seeds!

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If you're like me, now that the calendar has turned to March, the itch to get out in the garden is really starting to kick in! Whether you are an experienced seed starter or thinking about trying it for the first time, I'm here to help! I will be posting a series of blogs with tips to help you start your own garden plants from seed and successfully transplant them into your outdoor garden.

First up - how do you know when to start the seeds?

Read on for tips on getting th e timing right.

Know Your Zone

The first step is to know your USDA Hardiness Zone. This will help you determine the average first and last frost date in your location. The time between those two dates is when most plants will survive outside in your climate. Just enter your zip code here to find out your zone. The Central Iowa area, where I live, is in Zone 5. You can also enter your zip code here to learn your average first and last frost and hard freeze dates. In my area, growing season for most plants is typically May 6 - October 6.

Plan and Understand Your Crops

Next, you will need to decide what plants you want to grow this year and order your seeds. Veggies and other plants have different growing cycles, which will guide you on when to start the seeds. For example, most tomato plants should be started 6 to 8 weeks before the last anticipated frost date. In Iowa, that would typically be mid-March. Peppers, however, take a little longer to germinate and grow a little more slowly, so they should be started 8-10 weeks before the last frost date, which is early March in my area. This chart is a great tool to calculate when to start a wide variety of veggies and flowers indoors.

Start Inside or Outside?

Some plants should be planted directly in the garden, rather than indoors. Root veggies, such as carrots, beets, turnips, and radishes do not transplant well, as their long tap root is easily damaged. Other veggies, such as corn, beans, peas, zucchini, and spinach grow quickly, so there is not much of an advantage to starting them in advance. Veggies that benefit from indoor starting (or buying transplants) are plants that have a longer growing cycle, such as tomatoes, peppers, melons, and eggplant, or prefer cooler temps, rather than the hottest months. This includes broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, kale, kohlrabi, and many herbs.

Create a Seed Starting Schedule

Once you have planned your garden, purchased your seeds, and understand the growing cycles for your crops, it is helpful to put it into a schedule or planner. This will help you keep track of what you are planting, when to start the seeds, and any other special requirements, such as heat and light. It's also a great idea to make notes as you go, so you can experiment with different methods in future years.

There you have it! Next up, I will be sharing tips on the equipment you will need

to successfully start your own veggies from seed this year!

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