Starting Seeds

There is something very satisfying about starting a plant from a seed. You choose a packet of seeds with an inviting picture on the front, take an unpromising looking bit of vegetable matter and bury it in soil, add water, and wait. Within days, usually, a tiny green shoot will just begin to peek out. It must be part of our ancient human nature to find this experience deeply fulfilling.

Planting your container garden from seed is something you might want to try. Seeds are much less expensive than plants—you get a handful of seeds in a packet for much less than the cost of one plant. You also have many more options for exotic or unusual plants when you choose seed. This is especially true if you are interested in the heirloom varieties of vegetables.

Starting seeds

The planting process is fairly simple. You water the soil in the container and then plant the seed at the depth listed on the packet. A good rule of thumb is that the hole will be about three times the width of the seed. Usually this is not very deep, so you can just make a little hole with your fingertip, place the seed in the hole, and brush the soil over it gently. Small seeds can just be pressed into the soil. If the seeds are really tiny, the packet may suggest that you scatter the seed without making holes. When you have finished planting, water the seed in thoroughly (without disturbing the planting) and put the container in a warm place. Keep the soil moist.

It is best to plant more seeds than you want plants, because not all of the seeds will germinate. Under ideal circumstances, about 80% of seeds from a quality commercial seed grower will germinate and about 75% will produce plants. If you are planting heirloom or saved seeds, your germination rate will probably be much lower.


The timing of seed planting is determined by your climate. The seed packet will usually suggest the ideal month for your growing zone, or will list a minimum temperature at which the seeds should be planted.

If you are lucky enough to have a bird-filled garden, you may have to protect your investment from snacking birds. Birds will eat scattered seeds that are not hidden under soil. They often enjoy the fresh seedlings that grow like a miniature salad bar. There is special netting available at garden shops that will keep out the birds without harming them. You can easily stretch this over your container garden to keep your seeds safe.

Once the tiny plants have sprouted, you have the unkind task of thinning the seedlings. Sometimes this is hard to do when you have nurtured them from seed, but it must be done for the health of the garden.

You can fertilize your seedlings, but not until the second set of leaves appears. Once your plants get a little larger, you can pinch of the growing tip to encourage a fuller growth.

Starting Seeds – Herbs

HerbIndoor Seeding TimeOutdoor Seeding TimeApproximate days from seeding to harvest
ANISEMay 15 – 3070 – 75
BASILMay 15 – 3080 – 85
BORAGEMay 15 – 3080 – 85
CATNIPMay 10 – 2075 – 80
CHERVILMay 15 – 3070 – 80
CHIVESMay 15 – 3080 – 85
DILLMay 15 – 3070 – 75
LAVENDERMar 1 – 10100 – 120
LEMON BALMApr 10 – 2090 – 100
OREGANOApr 10 – 2060 – 80
PEPPERMINTApr 1 – 1080 – 85
ROSEMARYMay 10 – 2075 – 85
SAGEApr 10 – 2080 – 85
SWEET MAJORAMApr 10 – 2080 – 85
SUMMER SAVORYMay 10 – 2060 – 65
SUNFLOWERMay 10 – 2012 – 18
THYMEApr 1 – 1085 – 90
starting seeds herbs Anise
starting seeds herbs Basil
starting seeds herbs Borage
starting seeds herbs Lavender
starting seeds herbs Rosemary
starting seeds herbs Sage
starting seeds herbs Sweet Majoram
starting seeds herbs Dill

Starting Seeds – Vegetables


Starting Seeds – Flowers