How to Germinate Any Seed

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You’ve bought your seeds; you’ve prepped your containers. (Psst… Check out our article on how to make DIY seedling containers.) You’re ready to plant your seeds. Now what? It’s time to learn how to germinate seeds, step by step.

For more information on which seeds to buy, read our guide on everything you need to know about buying seeds for your garden.

Tips for Germinating Seeds

There are a few key factors to keep in mind when learning how to germinate seeds: temperature, moisture, air, and light. 

  • temperature
    • Seedlings germinate and thrive in warm environments. The ideal temperature for seedlings is about seventy-five degrees fahrenheit, which is a bit warmer than most folks keep their houses. Invest in seed heating mats to achieve optimal temperature for your seedlings and to give your garden its best chance. 
  • moisture
    • Overwatering seedlings can drown them; under-watering seedlings can dry them out. The only way to achieve optimal moisture is to keep constant watch over your sprouts. 
  • air
    • When seedlings become too damp, they can develop harmful molds. Providing airflow will help protect your plants from disease. Invest in a gentle fan to keep a steady breeze over your indoor seedlings. 
  • light
    • Seedlings need consistent light to grow and blossom. Stick your sprouts in a windowsill or under grow lights to make sure they are given their best opportunity.

With these factors in mind, let’s dive into the world of how to germinate seeds. 

sprinkling shower over seedling against soil

Step 1. Research + Plan

No matter your experience level, you’ll need to get started on planning your garden before you begin digging. Think about what vegetables you enjoy the most—plan around these. 

First, determine what planting zone you live in. Planting zones help you build a garden timeline. 

You’ll generally begin planting seedlings into the ground after the final frost date in your zone. If you want to research further, look up the month leading up to your average last frost date, and find out what the average daily and nightly temps are to gauge when the best time to plant is. Once you know when your ideal timeframe to plant your garden is, you can decide when to start seeds. 

Thankfully, most seed packets provide information about how soon to start your seeds. Whether it’s 4-6 weeks before your planting date or 6-8, you should be able to easily decide when to start which seeds. We suggest making a timeline that will guide your entire gardening journey, from starting seeds to harvest. A well-planned garden is crucial to success. Check out our garden planner for a seamless, organized gardening season.

hand holding starter plant against green background

Step 2. Prep Your Soil Mix + Sow Your Seeds

Fill your seedling trays with a seed starting mix. (Even high-quality potting soil can host natural bacteria that could harm plants or cause mold. To further protect your seedlings, you can sterilize your potting soil by heating the soil for 30 minutes at 180 degrees.) We suggest Burpee Organic Natural Seed Starter Mix. Before you begin sowing, you should pre-wet your soil. Fill a large bowl or pot with the soil mixture and water it lightly. Mix the water in and prepare the soil for planting. 

Next, use a scoop and fill each pot about ¾ way full. Follow the instructions on each seed packet carefully. 

As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to place a few seeds on top of the soil, then gently press the seeds down into the soil. (Be sure to read seed packet instructions carefully. Many seeds require cold-starts, soaking, and filing.)

To quicken the process, cover your seeds with plastic wrap to trap moisture. Voila! You have learned how to germinate seeds. Once they begin to sprout, remove the plastic. 

starter plants against backdrop of red barn

Step 3. Keep Sprouts Nourished & Thinned


For most baby buds, you’ll want to water about twice a day. However, keeping an eye on your seedlings is key. If the top layer of your soil feels dry and loose, it likely needs watered. If possible, make it a habit to check in with your plants a few times a day. Misting is the best method for watering when seeds are small. 


You have a few options when planting seedlings. You can grow them indoors in a well-lit window sill, indoors with grow lights, or outdoors in a greenhouse. Grow lights provide you with the most control and highest chance of success, especially if you live somewhere with frequent cloudy days. 


Since you sprinkled a few seeds into each pot, and it’s likely that more than one of these will succeed, you’ll need to thin your seedlings before they grow too large. For a plant to thrive, it needs lots of room to grow. Overcrowded sprouts will leave your plants competing for nutrients.

Determine which of your seedlings is the healthiest. Then, you’ll want to thin any surrounding sprouts. Grab a pair of bonsai shears or disinfected scissors, and snip the base of any sprouts that surround your most viable seedling. 

starter plants in raised beds being watered

Step 4. Plant Gradually

Remember, you’ll want to plant your seedlings as soon as they’re ready, but not before the last frost date. Stick to the timeline that you built and plant gradually. 

Although all of these steps might seem a bit intimidating, once you’ve started a few trays of seedlings, you’ll get a good feel for the seed sowing process and be well on your way to harvest time! Remember, learning how to germinate seeds is one of the best ways to build a budget-friendly garden. Plus, you have a much broader variety of plants to choose from. (So, if heirloom, organic, or non-GMO vegetables are something you are interested in exploring, check out Botanical Interests Seeds.) 

Remember–no matter how successful or how unsuccessful your seedlings turn out, you can always pick up some start plants at your local nursery. Starter plants are plants that have been grown in greenhouses and have developed root systems and are ready to be immediately planted in the ground. Read more about the difference between seedlings and starter plants.

How to Germinate Seeds

How to Germinate Seeds

Yield: 1 seedling
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Wait Time: 14 days
Total Time: 14 days 10 minutes
Difficulty: Intermediate

Learn how to germinate seeds step by step to build the garden of your dreams.


  1. Make a garden planting timeline to stay organized. We suggest utilizing our garden planner.
  2. Fill seed starter containers about 3/4 of the way full of seedling soil.
  3. Moisten the soil with water and stir.
  4. Use your finger to create an indention about 1/2 inch to an inch in depth.
  5. Sprinkle a few seeds into the indention.
  6. Spread soil to cover the seeds.
  7. Mist the soil with water.
  8. Cover with plastic wrap to trap moisture.
  9. Place seedling container near sunny window.
  10. Water daily until seedling forms. Once seeds have germinated, remove the plastic covering. Continue to water seedlings until they are ready to be planted outdoors.

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