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Seed Starting Basics - With A Favorites List

The time of year is here to start seedlings (Zone 7b in February)! Every year I say that I am just going to buy transplants from my local nursery and every year I end up with tons of seed catalogs and next thing I know, my peat pots, soil and seeds start arriving.

Find out your zone here!

 Seed Starting Basics Blog Graphic

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I am almost positive 99% of gardeners go through this same thinking every year. Starting seedlings is not as easy as it sounds. There are temperatures and humidity levels to control. Watering and soil drainage play a huge role in seedling success too. It can be extremely stressful. Especially when you do not have a fabulous magazine worthy greenhouse in your backyard.

We are firm believers of working with what you already have! Our motto is “it doesn’t have to be beautiful, it has to be functional.” I see many first timers get too caught up in the beauty of raised beds, greenhouses, chicken coops, and any other structures that are out there in our faces, but do not function as they should.

I wanted to reassure you that you can have beautiful plants without the beautiful greenhouse. Here are a list of my favorite materials for seed starting:


Mini Greenhouse

Mini Greenhouse Set Up


I bought this greenhouse in 2020 to help with humidity control and for better hardening off when it was time to transplant. 2020’s seeds did not work out for me the way they should have. I had beautiful starts and when it came time to harden off and transplant, I put them outside on my porch in this greenhouse. We had a huge wind storm two days later and it took my greenhouse half way down the road… Oops. Beginner mistake - always tie down your greenhouse, even on the porch.

This specific mini greenhouse is very efficient for starting seeds when you have a small space, like us. This year I am starting my seedlings inside the house with this greenhouse. It is close to the wood stove to ensure proper temps, but I am very careful to make sure that my soil does not get too dry. So far, it is working out great.

-Entire greenhouse: 19L x 27W x 63H inches
-4 heavy duty shelves are included and are 2’3” wide
-Material: alloy steel
-Clear polyethylene cover with roll-up zippered door


Grow Lights

Gooseneck Grow Lights for Seed Starting

I have not used grow lights before and still had pretty good success with starting.

This year, I wanted to try out some grow lights and I am very thankful I did. These specific grow lights clip onto your tray or greenhouse shelves. I chose these lights because of the goosenecks, which will allow me to adjust as needed. These lights are full spectrum yellow and white combination and can be dimmed. They also have a built in 3/9/12 hour timer making it convenient when ensuring that your plants have the correct amount of light.

-Choose from 2, 3 or 4 goosenecks
-Full spectrum LED with yellow and white combination
-On/Off function and 3/9/12 hour timer
-10 dimmable modes
-3 switch modes
-Assembled measurements: 10.5L x 0.6W x 15.5H inches
-20 watts


Waterproof Seedling Heat Mat with Thermostat Controller

Waterproof Heat Mat with Thermostat Controller

 Heat mat

Thermostat for Heat MatThermostat

When start seeds last year, I did not invest in a heat mat and my peppers did not grow as they should have. I placed them on the top of my refrigerator for extra heat, but unfortunately it was not enough. This year I decided to try a heat mat with a thermostat controller and I believe my peppers will have a great start because of the temperature!

I chose this heat mat because it had the thermostat controller with it. Again, soil temps are a very important factor for seed propagation. This mat and thermostat controller is an inexpensive way to ensure you are meeting those temperature requirements when it comes to warm loving vegetables such as peppers.

Mat Specs:
-Measurements: 10 x 20.75 inches
-Heats root zone to 10-20 degrees F higher than ambient temp
-Power cord length: 6 foot
-Power: 20 watt
-Voltage: 120V/60Hz

Thermostat Specs:
-Measurements: 4.8 inches
-Power cord length: 5.8 foot
-Detection probe cord length: 6.4 foot
-Improves propagation rates by maintaining ideal root temperatures between 40-108°F (5-42°C)


Grow Trays

Grow trays are perfect for placing your peat pots. Many pots fit perfectly in these trays.

The best grow trays (especially if you do not have a greenhouse) are ones with a humidity dome. These are my favorite humidity dome trays:


Seed Starting Trays with Humidity Dome


They can be a bit pricey. Another (and much cheaper) option is to cover your trays with plastic wrap until seeds start to sprout. You can makeshift a taller humidity dome by adding popsicle sticks in your tray to hold the plastic wrap up.

Get your compostable plastic wrap here!


These are my favorite trays without a dome and they are fairly inexpensive.

Seed Starting Trays (10 pack)

These trays are perfect for peat pots, microgreens, wheatgrass and much more! They do not have drain holes so be sure to keep a check on your soil drainage and water levels.

-20 x 10 inches
-10 pack
-Durable and reusable
-Accommodates heated grow pads perfectly like the one I mentioned above 
-Multi use


Seed Starting Mix

I have a couple favorites for this. But my all time favorite is the soil I blend myself (stay tuned for a future blog post and recipe on this!).


Burpee Seed Starting Mix

Even though Burpee is commercial, I do like their organic seed starting mix. You can find this at your local feed store or online here.

-Organic seed starting mix
-Has Burpee’s plant food incorporated


Seed Starting Kits

If you want to skip all the parts and only worry about a kit (great for beginners!), I would suggest Burpee’s Self Watering Seed Starter Tray.

Burpee Seed Starting Kit - 72 cells

This kit is a complete indoor seed starting set with 72 cells and a dome cover. It comes with two 36 cell planting trays, two plant stands, one self-watering mat, one water reservoir tray, 72 super growing pellets and a dome cover!


-Tray has space for up to 72 seedlings in cells measuring 1.5"W x 1.5"L x 2"D each
-Entire tray measures 10"W x 20"L x 5"H
-Minimizes overwatering and promotes healthier root development, giving you hardier plants. Pellets of coco coir hold the perfect amount of moisture for seedlings


Peat Pots

Peat pots are all pretty much the same. There are different variations to size however and that is something to keep in mind when starting your seeds. Some seeds should be started in larger pots because their roots prefer not to be disturbed. Other plants are more resistant to root disruption and can easily be started in smaller pots.

Personally, I start all of my herbs in the pot I am going to keep them in forever or in larger peat pots and transfer the whole pot and plant to its designated pot.

Peat pots are amazing because they are biodegradable, have better water retention and you can place a whole peat pot in the ground!

For smaller pots and more hardy plants, these are my go to:

Seed Starting Peat Pots - small

-Measurements peat pots: 8.66”L x 3.45”W x 2.17”H
-Comes with plastic plant tags: 0.79”W x 3.94”H
-Cell size: 1.38”L x 1.38”W
-Pot is made from plant fibre
-Faster water absorption and retention
-Can place the whole pot in the ground


For larger peat pots, I prefer these 3 inch pots:

Large Peat Pots for Seed Starting

-Measurements: 3.15”D x 3.15”W x 3.15”H
-Round shape
-Pot is made from plant fibre
-Faster water absorption and retention
-Can place the whole pot in the ground
-Comes with 100 Plastic 1.97" plant labels


My favorite places to buy seeds:

  1. Park Seed
    100% GMO free seeds
    User friendly
    Paired with the garden planning app Seed to Spoon to make your gardening 1,000 times easier! Get the app here.

  2. Fedco Seeds
    Co-op seeds
    Large variety
    Trees, fruit, shrubs, and more!

  3. Sow True Seed
    Open-pollinated seeds
    Heirloom seeds
    Organic seeds
    Local to me!

  4. Kitchen Garden Seeds
    Large variety
    Safe Seed Pledge
    Organic seeds

  5. Gurney's Seed and Nursery Company
    Large variety
    Trees, fruit, shrubs and more
    Organic seeds
    Shop by zone option


I hope you are excited to start some seeds and growing your own food! Check out our other blogs about raising chickens and more!


Happy Gardening!


Take Root



Originally published on 02/14/2022
Last edited on 02/14/2022