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Sowing Seeds Indoors

You can grow a full garden, even if you live in a city.

Seeds are packages which carry all the nutrition a plant needs in its initial stages of sprouting. When stored properly, seeds can be kept for a year or more prior to being planted. In order to understand the conditions a seed needs to sprout it helps to consider what conditions a seed needs to keep it from sprouting.  

saved seeds

Why sow seeds indoors?

To get a head start. Before a growing season begins, the weather in the garden can be too hot or too cold, or the space that you want to plant into might be already occupied. Seedlings that were sewn indoors will be ready to plant outside the moment the weather is right and space frees up.

Alternatively urban gardeners might start seeds indoors to eventually transplant them into another larger container, also indoors. The method outlined here for seed starting will help even urban gardeners to save time and space.

sowing seeds
On Lotan we sow seeds indoors before the growing season begins to get a head start.

Storing seeds until you are ready to use them.

Seeds should be stored under dry conditions and within a fairly constant temperature—the cooler the better. Many people store seeds in the freezer, while not necessary this can prolong the life of the seeds.

A variety of corn seeds in storage.

The ultimate sprouting conditions for most seeds are a slightly warmer temperature (between 15 and 21 °C or 60 and 70 °F). They need to be kept moist but they should not be left soaking in water. Seeds that are kept too moist are in danger of rotting. Seeds which are allowed to dry out will not develop properly and will die.

saved seeds

Choosing the medium for starting your seeds.

The best medium for starting seeds is one which holds moisture but also drains well and is not easily compacted. Since young seedlings do not require much nutrition the medium does not have to be highly nutritious. Compost on its own is often too heavy and will have a tendency to be compressed thus depriving the seedling roots of much needed oxygen.  A variety of products are available in garden supply stores that can be mixed with compost to ensure a lighter medium for seed starting. Among these are coconut husks and Pearlite® (made from a volcanic rock). Mature compost should be mixed about half and half with these other lighter products.   

sowing seeds

Making your own soil mix: A special compost called "leaf mold" can be made by layering deciduous leaves with a small dusting of soil and allowing the pile to decompose for about 4 months. Any place where leaves fall in the autumn and there is precipitation in the winter is the perfect climate for making a leaf mold pile.

Sowing the seeds.

Seeds can be started in any kind of container. Since the seedling will only be growing in this container for between 3 and 8 weeks it does not have to be very deep, about 2 inches or 5 centimeters is deep enough for the roots to develop over that period of time. Some recycled options are egg cartons, shallow cardboard boxes, salvaged plastic bakery trays, milk or juice containers cut lengthwise on their sides, and old Tupperware-type containers.

It is very important that excess water is able to drain out of the container so be sure to cut holes as necessary.


As you sow your seeds envision the tiny plant that will have grown within a few weeks. Make sure you give the seeds enough room to develop in the container without becoming too crowded. In general sow your seeds about one inch or 2 and a half centimeters apart from the next seed.

Make sure seeds are covered with soil, but don't plant them too deep. As a general rule seeds like to be buried about twice as deep as they themselves are big. In other words, larger seeds will be buried deeper than smaller seeds.

Make sure you keep your container of seeds in a warm, light place where you will remember to give it water and will check it on a daily basis. After 3 to 8 weeks when the seedlings have at least three sets of leaves they can be planted out into another container or into the garden.


  • Book: You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail
  • Book: Seed Sowing and Saving by Carole Turner
  • Website: (Plant Propogation)


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