Radio Tips
March 5, 2024

Starting Seeds Indoors

Here at the Snohomish Co-op we love gardening! Everytime February rolls around we get in our gardening mode here and start the prep for the upcoming season. Gardening is not only a fun activity, but it’s educational and healthy. It contributes to a healthier ecosystem and benefits practically everything.

Now in traditional farming, when you think of planting your seeds for the year, you may think of the classic straight into the ground seed planting. This clearly can work and has for thousands of years but let’s look at starting seeds indoors and the benefits of germinating them in an indoor controlled setting!

Why germinate seeds indoors instead of direct planting?

The outside elements can be harsh on new plants trying to grow and establish themselves. The harshest weather is typically during those early vulnerable weeks anyways due the early spring unpredictability. Starting your seeds indoors will help to protect these plants and allow you to harden them to face the elements.

The other reason is a very important one here in the PNW. Have you ever experienced how just when the plants are really starting to take off and produce lots of produce that the weather turns and ends the season abruptly? By doing indoor seeding, this allows you to move up the timeline of the plants. This will allow you to maximize your harvest before the cold fall hits and the days start getting very short.

Oftentimes when we consider this option we may automatically assume that a full scale greenhouse with water access and temperature and humidity control is necessary. Although that would be a great option if you had it, we offer much more practical alternatives that could even fit in a small house maximizing space and utilizing your temperature controlled home to start the seeds for a very reasonable price for the supplies!

What you need:

  • 2 foot x 3 foot Indoor space
  • A window with lots of light
  • A misting spray bottle
  • Landscaper Select GreenHouse w/ Zipper Closure
  • Jiffy Seed Starting Greenhouse Kit Peat Tray
  • A watering can with rain nozzle
  • Seeds of your desired produce

How it works:

The best place to start is by doing some planning. Take some measurements in your garden space on how much room you have. Then consider the produce you would like to grow this season and research how much space that particular plant may need. TO help you with this process, we discussed doing a garden plan in an article about planting berries! Go back and check out that article if you have some questions or want to see if we do things differently.

Once you have the type of plants and the quantity you are looking to do of each, you can really get underway to starting your seeds! I would recommend doing a few extra of each so that way you can be sure to fill your garden with a full selection of healthy plants you can choose from.

In both of our Snohomish and Monroe locations we offer all of this equipment as well as multiple options of seeds to fit just what you are looking for.

This Greenhouse will be perfect for your seed starting setup. And when it's not in use, it disassembles easily (No Tools or hardware required) and fits into a box to store for next year! Set this up near your window you picked out. It will typically be in that space for up to 8 weeks while the seeds germinate and grow.

Each of these starter trays can start 72 seeds! You will need to water the peat soil to expand it and get the moisture into the soil before you start to sow your seeds.You will want to make it so the soil is damp but not so much you can squeeze the water out of the soil if you were to grab a handful. Overwatering can cause the seeds to rot.

Once the soil is prepped then sow your seeds. Gently make a hole in the center of the soil and place the seed in it. Refer to the directions on the back of the seed bag for specific depths for the various seed types you are planting. Then cover with a layer of soil. Use your misting sprayer to apply additional moisture if needed. Then place the plastic cover over the starting tray and place it inside the greenhouse.

If the plants can get between 12-16 hours of sunlight a day they will be happy. The goal with the greenhouse is to maintain a soil temperature of 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit and create a humid environment that takes advantage of the sunlight. This can be difficult even with a greenhouse enclosure here in the PNW and we recommend you provide some heat for your seeds. (Remember, the temperature inside the greenhouse structure will exceed the temperature in the room.)

In our Snohomish store we are carrying Seed Starting Heat Mats. All you have to do is place the peat tray of sowed seeds on the mat inside the greenhouse and it will help to regulate the temperature and promote growth. Keep the mat under the seeds until you see the stems break through the soil.

Once the stems are out in the open, heat is still necessary but so is light. It’s time to set up the grow light. With our shortened days in the early spring, the sun just isn’t out long enough to maximize the plant's potential. The greenhouse will help to retain that great atmosphere for rapid growth and a grow light will help to stimulate photosynthesis for longer periods of the day than are naturally available. This is exactly what is desired to get your plants as strong and healthy as possible before you transplant them into your garden.

Some people will set these lights on a timer to make it easy, or you can just turn it on and off manually of course. The goal is to create the length of time the seedling has light available. A rule of thumb is to have the grow light on for between 14-16 hours per day.

The seedling will do its job and start to grow. Make sure to be a diligent farmer and maintain watch of your seeds for the best success. The grow light will evaporate the water at a quicker rate than normal so you must make sure to check if the seeds need water misting regularly. Keep the Soil damp but not wet. While the plant grows you will need to maintain a distance from the top of the plant and the grow light of between 3-5 inches. You can adjust this by either raising your light or lowering your shelf depending on your setup.

The other benefit of the grow light is it will help to keep your plants growing straight which will help them be stronger in the long run once you transplant them.


It’s common for multiple sprouts to pop up from a single seed. This leads us to a trimming process that must take place for the health of the plant. Once 1 Full set of true leaves appears then trim away the other sprouts. This is going to consolidate the energy of the plant into a single stem and increase its yield and potential.

Here is an example of one set of true leaves:

Once Trimming is completed continue to let your plants grow by watering them and providing light and heat. Once they reach the stage of having 3-4 sets of True Leaves, it is time to prepare them for transplanting by a process called hardening.

Hardening off the seedlings is an extremely important but simple process. This is usually done over the course of a week but can be done for two weeks if the weather is unexpectedly harsh. The goal of this is to acclimate your plants to the elements including the sun, wind, rain, cold, long nights.

Start by putting the plant outside during the day in a shaded, protected area for an hour or so at first. Then bring the plant back inside. When you bring it inside don’t turn on your grow light. Allow the plant to get used to reduced light hours and cooler nightime temperatures.

The next day, extend the time outside by an hour or two.

Day 3, let the plant get some direct morning sunlight with an extra hour of exposure from the previous day.

Continue to increase the exposure time until by the end of the week they will be ready for transplanting!

Refer to the back of the seed packets for more specific information for the individual seed you are starting for a timeline and extra directions. Of course our staff in both our Snohomish and Monroe locations are happy to help with any questions you have and to get you set up for success! We have plenty of seeds with a large variety of plants ready for you to grow this season. Stop in, and we’ll show you what we have!

We’ll see you at the Coop!

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