Seed Starting 101: Pro’s & Con’s Of Starting Plants From Seed!

Sharing Is Caring!

Seed starting is a great way to save money, get a head start on the growing season, and as a means to grow certain crops that require a longer growing season. Starting your plants from seeds does have its pros and cons and can often get overwhelming for some. However, in our opinion, there are so many more pros than cons and little bit of organization goes a long way. It doesn’t take much to be successful and we believe everyone can, and should, start their plants from seed!

 This post contains affiliate links. This means I may earn a commission should you chose to sign up for a program or make a purchase using my link. There is no added cost to you but your purchase through my links helps support our content! Not to worry- I truly believe in and/or use everything I promote! Check out our disclaimer and disclosure page for more details.

Pro’s Of Seed Starting

Seed Starting Saves Money

One of the biggest pro’s of starting your own seed is the cost per plant. In today’s world, it seems like everything is going up in price and plant starts are no exception. Last year (2022), a single tomato plant was going anywhere from $3.79-$9.99, and that’s just in my area (SW Missouri), where everything tends to be on the cheaper end. A pack of seeds also ranges in price, only for way less, around $1 for a pack of at least 10 seeds. Getting heirloom seeds will run your cost up a bit more, but no where near what the stores and nurseries want for a single plant. There are other costs to factor in of course, but on average, starting from seed is going to save you a lot of money.

Seed Starting Can Extend Growing Season

Another major pro of seed starting is being able to extend your growing season. Many of the classic vegetable plants that people like to grow actually require a longer season in order to get a harvest. Plants like tomatoes, peppers, squash and melons, just to name a few, all require 100+ days from germination to harvest. These plants are some of the first to die when temperatures reach below 45° F (7°C), which really limits their growing season. Starting your garden from seed can be done while the temperatures are still freezing or there’s even snow on the ground! Given the right conditions, these seeds will sprout and grow, providing they have the required space and warm conditions, and could potentially be months old before they are even planted in the garden.

Seed Starting Can Open Your Options

Starting your own plants from seed really opens the door for unique plants and varieties that the stores don’t offer. Most nurseries or box stores are going to buy and sell the major varieties that they know people will buy, these tend to be the same varieties that are sold in the produce section. Being able to start your own seed is a lot like opening your taste buds to a whole new world of possibilities! From a blue tomato that taste just like a cheese burger, to a pink and green watermelon radish! You honestly can’t say you don’t like a certain fruit until you’ve grown all the varieties. They all taste different!

Con’s Of Starting Seeds

Of course with every good, there is a bad. Though in our honest opinion, the con’s to seed starting are so minuscule compared to the pro’s.

Seed Starting Requires Space

why start plants from seed

Having the space to grow out the seedlings always tends to be our biggest struggle, especially in our current tiny house situation. Metal shelves with hanging grow lights work great when they are starting out! It’s super space saving and you can fit a lot of trays on one shelf. Once they get up-potted is when I really start to struggle with space. It is definitely something to keep in mind before you jump in as a 2-3in pot for each plant can start to stack up on you pretty quick.

Added Cost Of Seed Starting

There is also the added cost of grow lights, shelving, trays, pots, soil (if you can’t make your own), and a way to keep them at the optimal temperature for germination and growth. A majority of these tend to be a one time purchase, so essentially seed starting is an investment. It is also an investment in time, as tending for young seedlings and basically starting the gardening year a few months before you normally would, takes up quite a bit more time.

Important Information To Know For Seed Starting

Seed starting can seem overwhelming at times, especially when you first start out. With just a few important tips and tricks, starting your own plants can become a much easier process!

First And Last Frost Dates

Knowing your estimated first and last frost dates is important when it comes to the timing of when to start seeds, both indoors and direct sowing. You can find your estimated first and last frost by going to the Almanac website and putting your zip code in. Every seed has a recommended time to start based on how much time it requires to grow and produce a harvest. Your estimated last frost, or first frost when it comes to fall planting, will help you estimate when you need to start seeds in order to give them the time they need. You can typically find each seeds required length of time on the back of a seed packet or through a quick internet search.

There are tools that can be purchased such as Clyde’s Garden Planner, that will tell you when to start 22 different varieties, or you can simply count backwards from your estimated frost to determine when the seeds should be started. For example, if your last frost date is around April 20th and you were wanting to start peppers, you would count back 8-10 weeks from April 20th, which would have you starting your pepper seeds sometime between February 9th-23rd.

Planning out these days and either putting them on a calendar or making a chart is the easiest way to keep track of what to start each week. We have created a FREE download for the seed starting schedule we use. Just input your email below and it will be sent straight to your inbox! Be sure to check your promotions box if you don’t see it right away!

seed starting calender

Enter Your Name & Email Below To Get Your FREE Seed Starting Schedule!

* indicates required

Direct Sow vs Starting In Plugs

Even though all seeds can be started ahead of your first frost in plugs or soil blocks, it doesn’t mean every seed should be started this way. There are some varieties that do not like to have their roots disturbed after sprouting and these plants should be direct sown in the garden if possible. Some of these crops include;

  • Carrots, beets, radish and other varieties that are considered ‘root vegetables’
  • Squash, including pumpkins, butternut, & spaghetti
  • Dill
  • Certain flowers including, zinnias, poppies, & nasturtiums
  • Peas & beans

These crops either have large tap roots or very tiny roots that can break easily. This is why they prefer to be put in place once and not disturbed again. However, just because they are a bit pickier, doesn’t mean you can’t experiment by starting them in plugs. After all, experience and trial and error is the best way to figure out what works best for your garden!

Caring For Seed Starts

how to start seed

Root Space

A big must do when starting your seeds before your danger of frost is over, is making sure your starts have the room they need to continue growth. As a general rule, you want to pot up your starts once the roots make it to the bottom of their current container. If your plants begin to get root bound, their growth will become stunted and you won’t have a healthy and established plant to put out in the garden.

Warmth & Water

Keeping your plants warm and watered is another must. Heat mats, like this Ferry Morse mat, is a great option to keep those starts nice and warm. A space heater is another great option to keep them at the needed temperatures.

It’s important to remember that added heat, though very much needed, will also cause your soil to dry up quicker. Bottom watering is a great way to go for established plants, while a light spray bottle may be the better option for new seedlings, or seeds that haven’t germinated yet.

Light & Stem Strength

Proper light and a light breeze is essential to make sure your starts are getting the required energy and strength they need for growth. Grow lights can range from a simple light bulb to an elaborate, multi-layer stand. Whichever you decide to go with, it’s important to keep the lights on for 14-16 hours a day and at an appropriate distance to prevent leggy plants.

In order to strength the stems of your seedlings, it is recommended to point a low fan on the rotating function at your plants for most, if not all of the day. Move the fan itself ever so often to get that slight breeze from all directions. This can also be achieved by gently running your hand over the tops of your seedlings, beginning as soon as possible, and repeating every time you check on your starts (which should be everyday)

Hardening Off

seed starting indoors

Our final ‘must-do’ for starting your own plants from seed comes 1-2 weeks before those beautiful babies are finally ready to be put out into the garden. Preferably on warm, sunny days, you want to set your plants outside to get acclimated to the natural conditions it is going to endure after planting. So far, the plants entire life has been catered to, with the perfect temperatures and protection from harsh weather. This won’t be the case after it’s planted outside in the garden so it’s important to prepare them.

This process is called ‘hardening off’ your plants. The first day of your hardening off schedule should have mild or no wind, sunshine, and your plants should only be left out for 30 minutes to an hour. If you leave your plants out for too long, you run the risk of them getting ‘sunburnt’ and becoming stunted. Increase the time your plants are out, a few hours everyday.

After that first week, you can begin leaving them out (provided the temperature is cooperating) and allow them to be exposed to heavier winds and even rain. The most important thing is to just keep an eye on them. If they begin to look like they are struggling or showing signs of stunt, decrease their time outside. The last thing you want to do is plant struggling or dead plants after working so hard to raise them.

Follow Your Instincts & Your Own Garden’s Cues

You can read all the posts and articles about starting seeds and growing plants. However, your garden and situation is unique to you! It’s always going to be best to do what you can, rather than do nothing, and listen to your own garden, climate, soil and plants and what they specifically need. Take notes every year of what worked and what didn’t work and learn from that so that you can continue to improve your skills. You won’t ever be a master, because there will always be something to learn, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have that green thumb!

Hey Beautiful! I’m Tara, garden enthusiasts, keeper of chickens, herbal homesteader and stay at home mom of 3 tiny humans and a sourdough starter named Ma. I love teaching others how to live a self-sufficient and sustainable life through homesteading, scratch cooking, and remembering to live barefoot, wild and free!

Get A Free Guide To Preserving Farm Fresh Eggs!

Learn to preserve the abundance with this FREE guide containing over 10 different ways to turn those fresh eggs into a shelf stable product you can use all year round!

Come See What We're Up To On Social Media!

Check Out Our Latest Products

Subscribe To Our Email List

Our Latest Posts

Leave a Comment

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

More To Explore

Shopping Cart

Your Order

No products in the cart.

No products in the cart.

Scroll to Top