How to Grow Seeds Indoors – S1E5

In an effort to maximize our potential harvest and start planning spring planting, I started growing some tomatoes, lettuce, kale and lettuce in the basement.  I discuss my techniques for how to grow seeds indoors in Season 1, Episode 5 of the Small Scale Life Podcast.


Why Start Seeds Now?

Spring is right around the corner, everyone!  Depending where you live in the world, it might not feel like it as February comes to close.  In our house, we have started thinking forward to the 2016 Gardening Campaign.  In addition, I kicked off the Grow What You Eat Challenge by planting the leafy greens (lettuce, spinach and kale).  I am excited to see if I can grow enough leafy greens to effectively take that off our grocery list…permanently.  That is a tall order considering that there are four leafy green eaters (salads and smoothies) in this house.

At the same time, Julie reminded me that I always am kicking myself that I ALWAYS wait too long to grow seeds indoors.  I quietly disagreed, but she showed me the Lessons Learned articles I wrote in 2015 and in 2014 about growing seeds indoors early.  I had to agree with her.  I have to tell you: Julie is really on her game this week, but I will reserve that for another post or podcast.

How to Grow Seeds Indoors

Adding light to seedlings on Day 4

Day 4: While the seedlings look pale and pathetic initially, they greened right up under the grow lights – 2/19/16

Here are the basic steps I used:

  1. Buy 11″x24″ seed trays at a big box store like Lowes, Home Depot, Menards or garden store
  2. Fill the seed trays with potting mix. I actually purchased a bag basic potting mix for less than $4 and a bag of compost for less than $2 at Menards.  I used some vermiculite I had to create a fluffy mix (4 parts compost, 4 parts potting mix, 1 part vermiculite – measured with a Folgers can).  BE ADVISED: you get what you pay for, and the compost had too many sticks, rocks and other large debris.  Do not use the cheapest soil for your seeds; skip the bag of compost.
  3. I marked out rows on the edges of the seeds trays.  The rows are spaced every 2 inches.
  4. Add the potting mix to the tray. Go ahead, get dirty!
  5. Add seeds to the top of the potting mix.
  6. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of potting mix.
  7. Moisten the soil using a spray bottle.
  8. Cover the tray with a second tray.  Seeds will germinate in the dark.
  9. Add a heating pad to the bottom of the tray.  The heated soil really gets the seeds germinating.  These pads cost around $20 at a big box store or Amazon.
  10. Keep the soil moist.
  11. After the Day 4 or Day 5, take the top tray off and add light from grow lights.  I use T8 aquarium bulbs from the big box stores (they cost around $10 per bulb).
  12. Put the grow lights close to the top of the trays (about 1” to 2” away from the seedling tops).
  13. Add a timer to turn off the lights.
  14. Keep the heat on and keep the soil moist.  I also added a clear plastic top; this creates a greenhouse for the seedlings.

For the tomatoes, this method worked great.  Germination occurred fairly quickly.  I did not use this method with the leafy greens, but I will be in the future.

How to Grow Seeds: seedlings growing in the light

Day 10: Seedlings are growing in the light and with the heated soil – 2/25/16


I mention or discuss the following sites and articles in this podcast:

Small Scale Life Blog –
Small Scale Gardening Blog: Starting Seeds Indoors –
Small Scale Life Facebook Page –
Small Scale Gardening Group Page –

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Your Turn

What techniques have you used to grow seeds indoors?  What challenges or successes have you had?  As always, you can ask me questions by leaving a comment.

Learn. Do. Grow.