Sowing Seeds: A Guide to Starting and Planting Seeds

Planting seeds is simple, but knowing when to plant them requires a bit more thought.


  • Purple and sweet basil seedlings emerge from the soil. Start basil and other heat-loving edibles indoors to get a head start on the season; transplant them outside once the weather warms.
    Photo By Jackie Connelly/Courtesy Timber Press
  • Seed packets often contain more seeds that you can use in a small garden, so to avoid wasting unused seeds, coordinate your purchases with fellow gardeners and share them among friends.
    Photo By Jackie Connelly/Courtesy Timber Press
  • Cool season root crops, such as beets, prefer to be direct sown in spring while the weather is cool.
    Photo By Jackie Connelly/Courtesy Timber Press
  • Planting seed is a great project for kids.
    Photo By Jackie Connelly/Courtesy Timber Press
  • When it comes to seed starting, fluorescent lighting is a great indoor substitute for sunlight.
    Photo By Jackie Connelly/Courtesy Timber Press
  • You’d go mad trying to sow individual tiny seeds, such as those of carrots and lettuce. Just sprinkle a pinch onto the surface and scratch them into the soil.
    Photo By Jackie Connelly/Courtesy Timber Press
  • Newspaper pots make great seed-starting containers, because you can plant the pot with the plant.
    Photo By Jackie Connelly/Courtesy Timber Press
  • Never pull the plant out of its pot by its stem or leaves; instead, squeeze the sides of the pot to release the roots and let it slide out
    Photo By Jackie Connelly/Courtesy Timber Press
  • Choose quick germinating veggies such as corn, cucumbers, lettuce, or radishes to hold their interest. Starting seeds indoors in containers gives you a jump on the planting season.
    Photo By Jackie Connelly/Courtesy Timber Press
  • Seed packets often contain more seeds that you can use in a small garden, so to avoid wasting unused seeds, coordinate your purchases with fellow gardeners and share them among friends.
    Photo By Jackie Connelly/Courtesy Timber Press
  • "Sugar Snaps and Strawberries: Simple Solutions for Creating Your Own Small-Space Edible Garden" gives you the dirt on growing gorgeous organic food with very little square footage, from how to create and maintain healthy soil to deciding what and when to plant.
    Photo Courtesy Timber Press
  • Test the size of the planting hole prior to removing the plant from its pot.
    Photo By Jackie Connelly/Courtesy Timber Press
  • Remove overcrowded seedlings as they grow, eventually thinning to the spacing distance recommended on the seed packet.
    Photo By Jackie Connelly/Courtesy Timber Press
  • Gently lower the transplant into the hole; it should sit at the same soil level it was in its pot.
    Photo By Jackie Connelly/Courtesy Timber Press

The following is an excerpt from "Sugar Snaps and Strawberries: Simple Solutions for Creating Your Own Small-Space Edible Garden" by Andrea Bellamy (Timber Press, 2010). The excerpt is from Chapter 7: Sowing Seeds. 

Time to get your hands dirty. Starting seeds is easy. You just push a seed into the dirt, right? Sure, the how is simple, but the when requires a bit more thought.

Plant a seed too early, and cold temperatures will prevent it from germinating. Plant it too late, and it won’t have time to grow up and produce fruit before winter chills hit. Catching that planting window is the key to seed-starting success.

Of course, you don’t have to start all your edibles from seed: buying ready-to-plant veggies from the nursery does have its merits. Whichever route you choose, this chapter will teach you how to get your garden started.



Sowing Seeds 

I never fail to be amazed by seeds—or the incredible bounty that I can harvest from what began as tiny, shriveled specks. Some beginning gardeners regard seed starting with a healthy dose of fear, but the fact is, seeds are designed to survive, thrive, and eventually reproduce. We simply help them along by providing a little loving care.



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