Seed-starting Success #SeedSaturday

21 Feb

Gardeners can’t wait any longer. Though the ground be covered with snow and ice, we know these days will soon be gone. It is time to start seeds indoors. Hence the hash tag #SeedSaturday.

Peppers particularly.

Peppers take longer to germinate, and have a longer time from plant to harvest. For that reason we should start them now. Today I share a quick post about what works, and what doesn’t when it comes to seed starting.

What doesn’t work:

Starting seeds in egg shells

Start seeds in egg cartons

Why? Seeds contain most everything they need to germinate. For that reason they will germinate in egg shells, egg cartons, even a plastic bag. However, the seedlings will not survive in a shallow-rooted environment. So step away from Pinterest unless you can plant seedlings days after they sprout (which most of us can not).

Containers that work:20150221_121333
Milk Jugs
Tupperware containers
Plastic bottles
Bakery Department containers

Why? Plastic containers serve as mini-greenhouses for seeds. The environment is warm and cozy. Start saving things you would normally toss in the recycling bin.

The Dirt: I do not purchase “name-brand” dirt infused with fertilizer. Instead, I use topsoil.

Why? I have a terrible habit of over watering. Potting soil compacts when wet and becomes a perfect environment for mold. If you know you won’t over water, use potting soil. But, topsoil works for me, and is far cheaper.

Another tip: 

Heat the dirt. Yes, my friends. I place a bowl of dirt into the microwave for approximately two minutes (or until it is warm to the touch). Doing so gives your greenhouse the added boost of pre-heating, kills most diseases and even some weed seeds. Warming the dirt also shaves a day off the germination process because the dirt doesn’t take a day to warm to room temperature.

abpostIf you use water bottles, or milk jugs, do not cut the top off. Instead, open a door. This allows you to tape the door shut, cap a lid on the top and keep the seeds nice and toasty.


I prefer to soak all of my seeds for at least a few minutes prior to planting. This gives the seeds an instant drink, and I also believe it helps in germination.

As you can see I add approximately two inches of dirt in each container.

Then I water the dirt.

Before adding seeds.

Why? Because if I plant the seeds, then add the dirt and water the force and weight of the water scatters the seeds. Moistening the dirt first keeps seeds in place.

Seeds scattered in pre-moistened topsoil

Seeds scattered in pre-moistened topsoil

Finally, don’t forget to label the containers. We all want to think that we will remember the contents of our containers. However, once seedlings emerge I have forgotten.


Don’t forget the labels









I hope you will give my suggestions a try. I enjoy a high germination rate due in part to these techniques and ordering awesome seeds. If you haven’t visited the Botanical Interest website, or ordered a catalog please do so today.


Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.


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2 responses to “Seed-starting Success #SeedSaturday

  1. Carolyn Herndon

    February 22, 2015 at 12:54 am

    Love these ideas!

  2. Barbara Dover

    February 22, 2015 at 1:33 am

    Great suggestions!


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