Easy Seed Starting

Want to grow your own herbs and veggies from seeds? It’s easy!

By Terry-Lynn Malone

You’re intrigued by what the herbs can do, or you want to try some new veggies, and you’re itching to start your own from seed. It’s okay. No need to feel intimidated. With some planning, patience, and care, you’ll soon be easily growing plants from seeds.

Many seeds need to be seeded early indoors for planting in the garden or in outdoor containers, while other faster growing seeds can be seeded directly in the garden. This how-to is focused on the ones that need to be started early. Or if you are planning to keep your plants indoors then this how-to is for you too.

First Steps

Choose what seeds you want to try – start with seeds that are described as “Easy Germination” on the Richters Herbs website or on the back of the seed packet. They won’t need any special treatment and there are LOTS to choose from!
Try These Easy Germinators!    
Lemon BalmDillParsley
BasilEchinaceaRue
CatnipHyssopSage
ChamomileFrench LavenderSavory
ChivesMarigoldThyme
CilantroMintAnd Many More!

When to Start Seeds

Order seeds early to arrive well before outdoor planting time in your area.

The back of the seed package will usually tell you when to start your seeds. If the package says to start seeds indoors 4, 6, or 8 weeks before last frost or outdoor planting time, count back those weeks from your expected last frost date. For example, in Southern Ontario, we estimate our last frost date is around May 24th, so we count back from that date.

What You’ll Need

1. Seeds
2. Potting soil (any brand will work)
3. Small plant pots (2 to 3 inch pots) with drainage holes in the bottom OR peat pellets and pellet trays. Shown below are peat pellets before they are expanded by soaking in water. Cut-down milk or juice cartons filled with potting soil work well too if drainage holes are cut into the bottoms.
4. Craft stick, toothpick or a pencil to make a hole in the soil for the seeds
5. Water
6. Saucers or trays for the pots
7. Plastic zipper bags
8. Labels for pots (vinyl labels from Richters are shown below)
9. Permanent marker for labels

How to Plant Seeds

1. Put potting soil in the pot. Gently pat it down until the pot is about 3/4 full. Water the pot thoroughly and let stand for 30 minutes before planting. This makes it much easier to water the pot after seeding.

2. If the seeds are tiny like dust or like poppy seeds, pour them into a small container for easier handling. Chamomile and thyme in particular are easy to handle this way.
3. Tiny seeds can be picked up on the tip of your finger. Gently sprinkle 6 or so on top of the soil. Sprinkle a light dusting of potting soil on top of the seeds. Gently pat the soil with the tip of your finger. Do not cover seeds with too much soil; they should not be covered more than 2-3 times their thickness.
4. For medium size to larger seeds such as chives, basil or cilantro, use a craft stick, toothpick, or pencil to poke a hole in the middle of the pot.
5. Put the seed into the hole and cover with soil as per the seed packet. Gently tamp down soil over the seeds from around the hole, taking care not to plant more than 2-3 times the thickness of the seeds.
6. Use a spray mister to water the soil surface until the surface glistens with water. Because the soil in the pot was watered before you seeded, watering the pot after seeding is very easy.
7. Put the pot into a plastic zipper bag. Zip up the bag, but leave one corner open for air circulation.
8. Put the pot in a window sill or under a grow light. Rotate it every day to get even exposure. You can also put the pot on top of the fridge for bottom heat. Gentle bottom heat no higher than 30° Celsius helps speed germination.
9. Check on your seeds every day.
10. Keep the soil moist but not soggy wet.
11. As the seeds start to sprout, open the zipper bag further.
12. Remove the pot from the zipper bag once the seedlings have at least 2 sets of leaves or if the seedlings start to reach the top of the bag.
13. Keep the larger seedlings and snip off the smaller ones so only one seedling grows in each pot. Or you can carefully transfer seedlings into individual pots. Use the craft stick to dug up the seedlings to be moved and with your fingers grasp the leaves and gently ease the seedlings out of the soil while using the stick to loosen the soil.

Letting Them Play Outside

About a week before the expected last frost date for your area move plants outdoors to harden off. Put plants in a shady area for a few hours daily over a couple of days, gradually increasing the time outside. At about the third day start exposing the plants to partial sun. Leave your plants outside for the season once they have had one full day of light and darkness and if they appear to have adapted to the outdoors. If not, continue the gradual exposure method until they have adapted.

Once plants have been hardened it is safe to plant them in the garden or outdoor planters. Sun- and shade-loving plants should of course be planted where they get the appropriate sun exposure.

Still Not Sure?

Here’s a short video that shows how easy seeding is. It shows the simple steps described above. After this, there is no reason why you cannot start your own herbs and veggies from seeds right in your home!


Terry-Lynn Malone is an accomplished gardener, an avid herb enthusiast, and a great fan of Richters.
© 2012 Richters Herbs

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