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7 Best Plants to Start from Seed

Before you get started, brush up on good seed starting habits. You’ll want to mix your potting soil with sand for the best drainage. Seeds need to stay moist as they germinate and grow. You can even make your own potting soil to save money and control ingredients. Adding aquarium gravel on top of the soil, before you sow the seeds, will also help with drainage and protect against seed-killing fungi. For seeds started indoors, transfer sprouted seedlings to their own pot to reach maturity before moving them to your garden.

Try growing these seven easy flower and vegetable varieties from seed.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

1. Silene

For a burst of color in your garden, try Silene, a flower also known as “sweet William catchfly.”

Silene is one of the easiest perennials to grow from seed, making it a great choice for beginning gardeners. It should be started indoors about 2 months before the last frost.

Plant silene seeds in flats using high-quality potting soil and provide regular water. Sometime between 2 weeks and 1 month you can expect to see your seedlings burst forth from the soil.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

2. Marigold

Marigolds have a long blooming period that lasts from spring well into fall.

These annuals can be started indoors or outdoors. If you start them outside, wait until the soil is warm. If you want to begin inside, plant your marigold seeds 4-6 weeks before the last expected frost. Water marigolds at the bottom of the plant and avoid fertilizing them.

Marigolds are quick to grow. The first blooms should reveal themselves just a few weeks after planting.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

3. Cosmos

Since cosmos don’t do well as transplants, you’re unlikely to see them offered at your local nursery. That’s why they make a great plant to start from seed.

Wait until temperatures are warm enough to plant the cosmos seeds directly into your garden. In only 5-10 days you’ll see the first buds above the soil. Soon you’ll have pretty flowers that will bloom until the first fall frost.

zucchini blossoms
Photo from Home Guides by SFGate.

4. Zucchini

This popular summer food is one of the most bountiful vegetables. You don’t even need to plant that many seeds since you can expect one vine to produce 16 or more flowers. Zucchini seeds can be started either inside or out. If you start them inside, plant the seeds about 2 weeks before the last frost.

It will take about 4-8 days for these annuals to sprout. Harvesting begins after 2 months.

beets sprouting
Photo by Susan Berry, courtesy GRIT.

5. Beets

Beets are a hardy annual and easy to plant from seed since they can survive cold temperatures and even light frost. You can plant the seeds directly in your garden in the spring or fall. Soak the seeds for a day before planting. Then keep them moist in the ground and your seedlings will sprout within 3-5 days. Full harvest occurs about 2 months later.

Photo courtesy Laughing Duck Gardens.

6. Radishes

This annual vegetable has a fast harvest, approximately 20-30 days after planting. It can also be grown and harvested throughout the year. Just be sure to time your planting for 2-3 weeks before the last spring frost or the first fall frost.

Radish seeds should be started outside. Within a week you’ll be able to see the first seedlings.

Photo courtesy Farmer's Almanac.

7. Lettuce

Often overlooked as a less flavorful and not-so-glamorous vegetable, lettuce can actually be quite tasty and nutritious. This is the best reason to grow it from seed—once you’ve had lettuce fresh from the garden, you won’t want to buy it from the grocery store again.

Lettuce seeds can be sown indoors or out, depending on when you want to harvest them. For the earliest harvest, plant seeds inside about a month before the last spring frost. Once it’s warm enough to work in the garden, lettuce seeds can be transplanted in the garden. They should sprout above the soil in 1-2 weeks.

Lettuce is an annual, but there are so many varieties to choose from that you’ll have fun trying a different kind every year. For all my veggies, I like to get non-GMO, organic seeds.

Ali LawrenceAli Lawrence is a tea-sipping writer who focuses on healthy and sustainable living via her family blog Homey Improvements. She was born and raised in Alaska and dabbles in PR, Pilates, and is a princess for hire for kid’s parties. Find her on Twitter @DIYfolks.