Seed Starting Tips – #2

Seed Starting Tips – #2

Here are a few more tips for growing plants from seed.

How Big is It?  Did you know that in most cases the size of the seed tells how to plant it? In general, very tiny seeds get sprinkled on the surface of the soil and gently patted onto the top of the dirt. Medium size seeds are covered with a very fine layer of soil and larger seeds get poked down into the ground. A good rule of thumb is to cover the seed with soil that is as deep as the seed is thick.

Some Like It Hot  Many seeds germinate better when they are kept warm. In nature it makes sense that warmer soil temperatures are the clue for seeds to sprout…this would prevent things from germinating during those one or two warm days in February when the small seedlings would just get killed by a sudden plunge back to winter. If the seeds wait until the ground is warm, that means they are more likely to grow when it’s truly spring and early summer.

Seed starters who are growing their plants inside can take advantage of this cue to sprout by putting their seed starting trays on warm mats. Be sure to use mats or trays that are intended for this purpose – they keep the soil at the right temperature and are waterproof.

Some Like It Cold  Some seeds need a chilling period to sprout well. If your seed package says that the contents germinate better with a cold period, or that they require “stratification” it’s usually pretty easy to provide. Sow your seeds as early in the winter as possible (In January or February on Cape Cod) using damp seed starting mix.

Cover the pots or flats with plastic, or slip the flat into a plastic garbage bag and put it outside in a shady spot. On the north side of the house often works well. Check inside the covering after about three weeks to make sure the soil is still moist. Bring the flat inside if seeds are sprouting, or after the specified chilling period is over.

There are several products available for keeping your seeds and seedlings at the perfect temperature for growth. Come into the store and see our range of seed-starting supplies!


  1. Mary Finan on January 15, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    Thanks for the info re growing seeds. I love to grow my Plum tomatoes for sauce and some small pear tomatoes. Have a small raised garden just enough room. I do start them indoors but it was still late August/Sept. before they were ripening.

    I will look forward to your advice. Mary Finan

    • CLFornari on January 16, 2015 at 4:04 pm

      Last year everyone’s tomatoes were late to ripen because it was such a cool summer. Even those of us who had larger plants and put them out in the third week in May didn’t see many ripe tomatoes until later in August last year. That said, different varieties begin to ripen at different times. Those that seem to ripen soonest include Early Girl, Fireworks, and Fourth-of-July, plus most of the cherry tomatoes. So look for one of those if you want to start harvesting earlier.

  2. Mark Kilmurray on January 14, 2016 at 7:17 am

    Dear CL
    Last I followed your advice on starting seeds early and inside. I started tomatoes, lettuce , eggplant and pumpkins. Also I built two cold frames where the plants took off. When planting I placed torn up newspaper near the roots and my fertilizer was Alaskan fish. I had the best growing in my life, Lots and lots of tomatoes, 4 eggplants on one plant and 2 giant pumpkins. February is right around the corner and I cannot wait. Thank-you very much for helping me now and hopefully at a later time.

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