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GardenSMART :: Cheap Seed Starting - How To Germinate Seeds At Home

Cheap Seed Starting – How To Germinate Seeds At Home

By Heather Rhoades for
Photographs courtesy of

Many people will tell you that one of the most expensive parts of gardening is buying the plants. The best way to avoid this problem is to simply grow your own plants from seeds. Once you learn how to germinate seeds, you will always be able to have cheap plants. It is easy to get started with cheap seed starting. Let’s look at how to germinate seeds.

How to Germinate Seeds

Start with seeds that are less than two years old, a soilless seed starting medium [1] of some kind and a container that can help hold moisture in.

Soilless seed starting medium

A soilless seed-starting medium will insure that the seeds and seedlings are not killed by too much salt (or salinity) that is frequently found in soil or even regular soilless mixes. The soilless seed-starting medium can be an actual soilless seed starting mix (bought at your local nursery) or a folded paper towel. If you choose to use a paper towel, you will need to move the germinated seeds to soil or another growing medium [2] after they have sprouted.


This container should hold in moisture. A plastic container is ideal for this. Some people may use a Tupperware container while others may use a zip lock bag.
Dampen (but do not soak) the soilless seed-starting medium and place it in the container.

  1. Place the seeds in the soilless medium
  2. Close the container
  3. This will ensure that the seeds continuously receive the appropriate amount of moisture

Now, find a warm place to put your seeds (which is another one of the factors that affect seed germination). You should always keep your seed germination container out of direct sunlight, even if the packet specifies they need sun to germinate. If you need the sunlight, place in indirect light. Many people find that the top of their refrigerator is ideal, but you can use a heating pad set very low or even the top of your TV. Anywhere that has a very low steady heat.

Check your seeds often to see if they have sprouted. Germination time for seeds varies and should be marked on the seed packet [3]. Once they have sprouted, vent the container by opening it some. If using a paper towel, move the seedlings to proper soil, otherwise transplant seedlings [4] when they have two true leaves.

Factors That Affect Seed Germination

Factors that affect seed germination vary from plant species to species. But there are a few that are standard. If the seeds that you are growing are not germinated in what is considered a standard way, the seed packet will state this in the directions. Factors that affect seed germination are:

  1. Moisture
  2. Salinity
  3. Heat

Contrary to popular belief on how to germinate seeds, sunlight is not a standard factor that influences seed germination (unless otherwise stated on the seed packet). In fact, sunlight can do more harm than good, as it may overheat the seeds and seedlings, killing them.

Now you know how to germinate seeds with cheap seed starting mix, you can grow your own cheap plants.

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