Gardening Soil Sowing Seeds

Gather Materials Before Sowing Indoors

By Larry Hodgson

Usually, you’ll be sowing the seeds of your vegetables, herbs and annuals in the spring, either indoors a few weeks before transplanting, or in the ground. For appropriate sowing dates, see When to Sow Over 80 Vegetables and Herbs or Sowing Calendar for Annual Flowers.

But before sowing any seeds indoors, you might want to check and make sure that you already have all the necessary equipment at your fingertips.

Here’s what you should have on hand:

  • Seeds
  • Containers (pots, cell packs, etc.)
  • Biodegradable pots (for some seedlings only)
  • Trays
  • Transparent domes (mini greenhouses)
  • Potting soil, preferably containing mycorrhizae (beneficial fungi)
  • Bucket or large bowl
  • Labels
  • Pencil or pen with indelible anti-UV ink
  • Tools (spoon, fork, knife, scissors)
  • Small block of wood to press the soil
  • Spray bottle
  • Watering can
  • Impermeable cloth to protect work surface

You can, of course, buy all these products, but then you’ll end up paying top dollar. If you look carefully at the list, you’ll realize almost all of these tools can be found either in the kitchen (spoon, scissors, knife, etc.), in the workshop or laundry room (spray bottle) or in the office (pencil or marker), while you can obtain most containers (pots, domes, trays, etc.) by recycling everyday products … and who doesn’t own a watering can?

The one product you really do have to buy besides the seeds is the soil you’ll start the seedlings in. You can look specifically for seed starting mix, but plain potting soil works just as well. (With many brands of soil, the only difference between the two is the label!)

Note that there is no real saving to be made in assembling your own seed starting mix. In fact, the cost of the ingredients (peat or coir, perlite, lime, etc.) is usually higher than that of the commercially prepared product.

A good potting soil is one of the only expenses you will have to make, other than buying new varieties of seeds. You can save money elsewhere, but you shouldn’t skimp on soil quality!

And more specifically, never use soil taken from the garden in preparing soil for seedlings! Most garden soils compact terribly in pots (not a good thing for young plants!), plus you risk introducing diseases and unwanted pests: never a good thing!


Seed sowing season is coming soon. Now you know what you need to be ready!

Ill.: by Claire Tournigny, from the book Jardinier sans se ruiner by Larry Hodgson.

Garden writer and blogger, author of more than 60 gardening books, the laidback gardener, Larry Hodgson, lives and gardens in Quebec City, Canada. The Laidback Gardener blog offers more than 2,500 articles to passionate home gardeners, always with the goal of demystifying gardening and making it easier for even novice gardeners. If you have a gardening question, enter it in Search: the answer is probably already there!

4 comments on “Gather Materials Before Sowing Indoors

  1. marianwhit

    When I invested in professional sterile nursery potting medium for germination with “starter” fertilizer, this was a game changer for the veggies and annuals…native plants are a different story…some do fine…others require experimentation and understanding their native habitat conditions…even inoculating the medium with a bit of soil to get beneficial fungal relationships started.

  2. I sow almost nothing inside. Spring happens so suddenly here that there is not need to. However, I put out some seed for esperanza last year (not in the vegetable garden of course), and they came up so slowly that something ate them! It was SO embarrassing, and shameful, since someone had sent me the seed from Florida. I got some more seed from Texas this year, so will keep them inside for a while, and also start them a bit late, which could be . . . right about now.

  3. You left out fertilizer – in my experience, even in good potting soil my seedlings soon just stop growing unless I give them some dilute fertilizer.
    The other vital supplies for my situation (small apartment) are big plastic tubs, grow-lights that I can lay across the top of them, and old-fashioned seedling trays lined with tinfoil to lay across the tops of the grow-lights. I’ll be setting this up on the radiator in my office in a month or so. But what to plant…

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