Now that you have finished planning your garden (if you haven’t, see my post here on how to start planning your garden today) and ordered your seeds, it is time to start your seeds!
As you can probably tell from the title, in this post we are going to talk about how to start seeds indoors without grow lights. If your house has a window (preferably with southern light exposure for those of us in the United States), this is a potential method for you. If you don’t have space with adequate sun exposure, it is probably best to start your seeds indoors using grow lights.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I make a small commission (at no extra cost to you) when you make a purchase using these links. For more information, see my full disclosure here.
Pros to Starting Seeds Indoors Without Grow Lights
- Temperatures indoors tend to be more consistent than temperatures outdoors
- No need for additional supplies like grow lights or rack to put plants on. You are able to use what you have as a growing space.
- Since plants are inside, you are able to keep a closer eye on them.
- In the event you choose to use a heat mat, electricity is close by.
Cons to Starting Seeds Indoors Without Grow Lights
- If lighting needs (12-14 hours) are not met, you may experience leggy seedlings
- You may experience slow germination. Seeds don’t need light to germinate. However, once they have emerged from the soil, they need light right away. Using a heat mat may help speed up germination.
- Growing space takes up room in your house.
What do you need to start seeds indoors?
Below are basic seed starting supplies that are necessary to have in your seed starting set-up. I have included Amazon links below. However, you may be able to find these items locally or even online at places like Johnny’s or Morgan County Seeds.
- Seeds (Baker Creek, Johnny’s, Morgan County Seeds)
- Soil or seed starting mix (we use Berger BM2 Germinating Mix)
- Seed starting trays, containers, or soil blocker (similar one on Amazon, here)
- 1020 trays
- Humidity domes or plastic wrap
- Place to set up trays of started seedlings (can be a table, shelf, wire rack, etc.)
- Plant markers
- Sharpie Extreme (Sharpie Extreme markers are different than regular Sharpie markers and are fade resistant)
- Heat mat (optional)
step by step How to start seeds indoors without grow lights
Once you have gathered all of your supplies, it is time to get started:
- First, identify and prepare a space where you will place your starts that is close to a window (preferably with southern exposure for best chance of success)
- Then fill seed starting trays or containers with seed starting mix or put together your soil blocks and place into 1020 trays. These trays catch any excess water (or you can choose to fill them with water to bottom water your seedlings).
- After you have filled your trays or containers, water your seed starting trays or containers. You want to begin with moist soil.
- Using your fingers, a pencil, chopstick, or something similar, create indentations in each cell or container you will plant a seed in. Indentations should be twice as deep as your seeds are wide. If you are using soil blocks, the soil blocker should have already made your indentations for you.
- Then, carefully place seeds into indentations and gently cover with soil.
- Lastly, you will need to label the spots that you just planted in. Label the plant markers using Sharpie Extreme with the variety of seed you sewed and place labeled plant markers in appropriate location to mark seeds. Alternatively, if you plant a whole tray or container of something, you can use masking tape to label the tray or container.
Your seeds are planted! Now What?
- Carefully move trays or containers to grow space (on top of heat mats, if applicable)
- Once your trays are in place, cover trays or containers with humidity domes or plastic wrap. This helps hold heat and humidity in to encourage germination.
- After all of this, you should check on your seedlings daily. You will want to make sure the soil stays moist throughout the germination process as too much or too little water can affect germination. Different plants have different germination periods. The back of the seed packets should tell you how many days it usually takes for each specific plant/variety to germinate.
what to do after the majority of your seedlings have germinated?
- After the majority of your seedlings have germinated, you want to remove the humidity dome or plastic wrap.
- Continue checking on seedlings to make sure the soil is moist, but not soaking wet.
- Once seedlings have developed their first true leaves, it is important to fertilize them to help encourage root and plant growth.
- Congratulations, you have successfully started seeds indoors without a grow light! Now you will continue observing seedlings for growth and monitoring soil moisture until it is time to harden off your plants before transplanting them outdoors. For step by step instructions on how to harden off your plant starts see my blog post, here.