Starting a Garden

Starting seeds indoors: Starting Mix, Tips and Tricks!‎

Saplings or Seedlings on a Wooden table by a sun window

The secret to growing healthy plants

What’s the secret to growing healthy plants – one that will give you splendid vegetables?! The ‎secret is in starting off on the right foot. In this article, we will share our seed starting tips, tricks and ‎other best practices so that (in most cases) 4 weeks after starting them indoors, you will have healthy ‎seedlings that you can then transplant into your main growing area! ‎

But wait! What does ‘seed starting’ mean!? ‎

Seed starting refers to the act of planting seeds of certain vegetables indoors in a soilless medium. We ‎plant indoors, or in a controlled environment, to give the young ‘seedlings’ (‘seedlings’ (or ‘saplings’ or ‎‎‘transplants’) are the baby plants that seeds develop into) a safe environment – free from excessive ‎wind, temperatures, and harsh weather conditions – in which to grow. After about 4 weeks (for most ‎veggies) of growing young seedlings indoors, they are then transplanted into your main growing area ‎like a container or raised-bed, and in a different growing medium – one that is soil-based and contains ‎compost. ‎

Why start seeds indoors? ‎

We start seeds indoors for three main reasons: 

‎1. To grow young plants / seedlings in a controlled, protected environment to increase their chance of ‎survival

‎2. To get an early start on the season. For example, for someone living in Dubai, one could plant ‎broccoli in early October, and then after 30 days move them outdoors in November so that they enjoy ‎the cooler, mid-twenties weather. ‎

‎3. Finally, because some vegetables grow better when planted as saplings as opposed to being sown ‎directly as seeds. 

...Starting our seeds grows our capacity to grow into our deepest, richest selves.

What plants should you NOT start indoors?‎

You can start most seeds indoors, except for those that don’t do well as transplants. Therefore, the ‎seeds to NOT start indoors are root vegetables like radish, carrot, turnips; others that work better ‎sown directly in your main growing area are curcurbits like melons, zucchini, squash, karela and ‎bottlegourds; and still others that you ought not to start indoors are beans and corn. ‎

Seed starting supplies

🌱 Potting cell trays ‎

🌟 Tub (to contain and prepare potting mix) ‎

🌱 Bottom trays (to bottom-water potting cells)‎

🌟 Labels ‎

🌱 Marker

🌟 Potting table (or high surface) ‎

🌱 LED lights (if you lack access to natural light – greenhouse or south-facing window)‎

For your seed-starting mix:  

🌟a. vermiculite OR perlite 

🌱 b. peat moss or coco coir or coco peat 

🌟 c. (if you don’t want to make your own mix with a. and b., then use) ‎a readymade seed-starting mix ‎

Seed starting mix recipe: how to prepare your mix ‎

Peat Moss

‎1- Thoroughly wet your mix using lukewarm water. You will use approximately 1 litre water in 20 litres ‎potting mix. Ensure the mix is wet, but not dripping wet.‎
‎2- Fill your potting cell trays fully with your wet potting mix. Tap the potting cell trays on your working ‎surface/potting table a few times (from about 5cm up) to allow the potting mix to settle. ‎
‎3- Top-up with more potting mix until each cell is full.‎

How to start seeds indoors – step-by-step

‎1.‎ Label your potting cell tray (use an ice cream stick) with the plant name, variety name and date ‎of planting (for example: ‘Kale – Dinosaur – 15/10/2020’). Also make a note in your journal or ‎computer. ‎
‎2.‎ Make a small indent in the soil with your finger and then drop two to three seeds in each cell. ‎You will later ‘thin’ the emergent saplings (by snipping with scissors) 2 to 3 weeks from the ‎date of sowing, so you only have one plant per cell (except for spring onions, arugula and ‎radish that may be multi-sown with 3-4 in the cell transplanted fully into your main growing ‎area)‎
‎3.‎ Once the seeds are sown, cover lightly with your seed-starting mix
‎4.‎ ‎‘Bottom water’ your potting cells by placing water in the bottom-tray, allowing the cells to take ‎up the water from its bottom holes. Place your potting cell trays in water like this for about 20 ‎minutes; afterwards, throw the water out of the tray
‎5.‎ Keep your soil moist at all times. Check daily and water using the bottom-watering method ‎before the soil dries.‎
‎6.‎ Once your seeds have germinated, make sure they have as much light as possible. You can do ‎this in one of three ways: placing in a greenhouse, by placing by a south-facing window that ‎receives plenty of light, or by using full-spectrum LED lights placed 10-30cm above the saplings. ‎


‎7.‎ Thin your saplings 2-3 weeks from sowing by using scissors – see point 2 above
‎8.‎ After Week 3, you can feed your saplings with a weekly fish emulsion/seaweed fertilizer
‎9.‎ Harden off your transplants a week before planting them into your main growing area so that ‎they get used to being outdoors. Do this by gradually introducing them to the outside, for an ‎hour or two daily. Every day, increase the time they spend outside by an hour or two. Avoid ‎placing them outside during windy or especially hot or cold weather. By the end of the week, ‎your transplants will be ready to be planted into your main growing area

More Seed Starting Hacks and Advice!‎

‎1.‎ 🌞🆚💡 When providing light for your starts/seedlings, I personally prefer natural lighting in a ‎greenhouse where we are able to maintain cool temperatures. However, if you don’t have a ‎greenhouse, choose a bright sunny window or artificial lighting also work well. If picking artificial ‎lighting, what should you look for?‎

‎1. Full-spectrum lighting as opposed to exclusively “cool blue” or “warm red”‎

‎2. Pick a full-spectrum light with a Kelvin rating of 5000-7000K (blue colour) to promote vegetative ‎growth, and 3,500 – 4,500K (red colour) to promote fruiting and flowering.‎

‎3. A Lumens rating of around 2,000. Lumens measures the total quantity of visible light emitted ‎from the grow light, and you want to avoid too high a lumens rating. ‎

Keep shining y’all! 😎

‎2.‎ 🎇🎇 How do you sow very small seeds?! The seeds of lettuce, green onion and arugula are all ‎very tiny. So how do you pick just a couple to sow in each potting cell?! Don’t just use your ‎fingers.. instead, grab a stick with a tiny edge (ideally a toothpick) and wet one end in water. The ‎adhesive force the water allows you to pick up only a few seeds on the toothpick which you can ‎then lower directly into the seed starting mix in your potting cell!‎

‎3.‎ ‎✂️🌱 Snip, don’t rip. When ‘thinning’ your seedlings so you only have one seedling per potting ‎cell, it is better to use scissors and cut them off at the level of the soil than to pull out the extra ‎seedlings with your fingers. This is because pulling them out disturbs the surrounding soil and can ‎damage the delicate roots of the neighbouring sapling!‎

This growing season, get your plants started off on the right foot. Follow the steps above to give your ‎veggies the head start they need. ‎

Comments (5)

  1. Desert Broccoli: How to grow broccoli at home in the desert - our top tips - SoWeGrow
    November 24, 2020 Reply

    […] If growing outdoors, transplant outdoors in the ‘cool season’. This means you will need to ‘start your broccoli seeds’ 4 weeks earlier indoors. […]

  2. Gardening Resolutions: 7 No-Brainer Reasons to Grow a Garden in 2021 - SoWeGrow
    April 8, 2021 Reply

    […] Some of our most-read blog articles are great for beginner gardeners – such as starting seeds indoors, ensuring a thriving garden in the summer heat, managing pests organically, and having a garden […]

  3. Sabrina Rajendra
    May 27, 2021 Reply

    How to grow vegetables like tomato 🍅and onions 🌰, brinjal 🍆lady finger these all I seeded but it not come pls tell me how keep the soil and I staying in qatar now it’s too hot

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *