Are you interested in starting seed indoors but aren’t sure where to begin? Learn how to start seed indoors without a greenhouse with these simple tips.
If you’ve never started a garden from seed before, it is truly amazing how a tiny little seed can produce something beautiful or edible.
I’ve been starting seeds indoors for a few years now and will share the best process from seed to flower (or vegetable if you want to grow those) in a Grow With Me series.
But the best part?
You don’t need a greenhouse to start seeds indoors.
Whether you want to grow flowers, herbs, or vegetables, learn how to start seeds indoors without a greenhouse this winter here.
Today’s post will provide an overview of the process. And then each step is broken down in the series at the end of this post.
Are you ready to grow an amazing garden this year?
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9 Benefits of Starting Seed Indoors
While you can always shop your local nursery for plants and flowers, starting seeds indoors is a rewarding experience with lots of benefits for the home gardener.
- Better control over growing conditions (light, temperature, moisture)
- Early start to the growing season
- Protection from harsh weather
- Reduced risk of disease and pests
- Ability to grow rare or specialty plants
- More efficient use of garden space
- Budget-friendy way to grow plants
- It’s a rewarding experience
- Helps beat the winter blahs
How Do I Successfully Start Seeds Indoors If I Don’t Have a Greenhouse?
I used to be under the mistaken impression that I could not successfully grow seeds indoors without a greenhouse.
And that can not be further from the truth!
You absolutely DO NOT NEED A GREENHOUSE but you do need the right equipment. While this post focuses more on growing flowers, you can start any type of seed using this process.
Get the Right Equipment to Start Seeds
While I have started plants from seed before with some success, it was pretty ho-hum before I started using grow lights.
Some plants started easily, while others were epic failures. Part of the problem was that I started seeds in front of my south-facing windows and there wasn’t much room to grow stuff there.
The windows were not very large so my seed-starting set-up sucked up a lot of my living space. And seedlings were not receiving an adequate amount of light to grow properly.
So it was a bit of a struggle to do it there.
And then the voice in my head took over. Telling me that I needed a greenhouse to be more successful.
And that couldn’t be further from the truth!
So if I want to expand my gardens to include more flowers that can be grown for cutting, I had to get that mindset. Because those flowers were not readily available at the nursery.
Get the negative thoughts out of my head, get the proper equipment, and start them from seed.
Since I don’t have a greenhouse and can’t do them on a large scale in my living room, I started seeds in my basement in my former home and the sunroom in my new home using the right equipment.
The first year I did this in the basement and it was a great spot to start them because I had plenty of space to grow lots of plants and they grew much better using the proper equipment.
I mean, I started 1400 flowers in my basement! It was pretty incredible and I was amazed at how much easier it was to use grow lights.
How to Start Seeds Indoors Without a Greenhouse
Before we get started, keep in mind that while there is a science involved with starting seeds indoors, it is SUPER EASY to do. Read through this overview to get an idea of what you’ll need to do before purchasing the equipment needed.
Location Location Location
If you are like me and do not have a greenhouse, find a spot in your home where you can place a grow system with lights.
It does not have to take up a lot of space, particularly if you use a shelf-type system.
Measure your garden space so you know how much of a growing system you’ll need to DIY or purchase. These measurements will help determine the size of your growing system, as well as the amount of seed trays you can fit.
Shop for Seeds
While you can purchase seeds locally from nurseries, I like to purchase from quality growers online in December and January.
My favorite seed sources include:
Since most online seed sales start in early January, I do my research beforehand, save a wishlist on their site, and then shop when their sales go live.
You’ll still find seeds online after December and January, but there may not be as many options or varieties to choose from.
Keep in mind, that some flowers and vegetables might need to be sowed sooner than later, so you will want to get your seeds early.
Gather Supplies to Start Seeds Indoors
We will cover more about the supplies and how I do my indoor seed starting set-up in the next post of this series.
But in general, here’s what to buy:
- Seed Starting Potting Soil
- Seed Trays
- Bottom or Drainage Trays
- Clear Dome Lids
- Grow Lights
- Table or Shelf System for Seedlings
- Heat Mat
- Plant Labels
- Oscillating Fan
- Programmable Timer
Since I have a lot of space in my basement and sunroom, I work with four-foot grow light systems on tiered wired shelves.
But there are smaller options available so design a system that works best for you and the space you have.
There are a few ways to create the grow light system for starting seeds indoors
There are tiered systems available like these from Gardener’s Supply. And I love when everything comes together like this. Plus, it’s easy to use and move around.
But if you ask my husband, he wanted us to piece something together ourselves and make something similar to a pre-made tiered system.
That’s how we came up with the system we use and it works really well.
So there’s no right or wrong way to set up your system as long as you have a way to hang grow lights above seeds and have the ability to adjust the height.
Seed Starting Supply Tips
It is strongly recommended to do one flower variety per cell tray.
This is a GREAT tip because I’ve made the mistake of condensing different plants and varieties in the same cell tray and they germinated at different times.
So it is important to have enough cell trays for each packet of seeds.
And looking at all of my seed packs, I’m going to need a lot of trays!
Good thing I saved some trays with containers from the nursery last year for this very purpose.
Because I have leftovers, I’m planning to do a combination of re-using those and getting new supplies.
For the ones I am re-using, it is essential to clean them really well with a 1:10 ratio of chlorine bleach to the water to sanitize and kill any pests or diseases lingering behind.
This is actually a good practice for any pots or containers that you re-use for any type of plant.
Plan Your Seed Starting Planting Schedule
While gathering seed starting supplies, chart the timing and needs for each seed packet.
It’s much easier to figure out how many supplies you’ll need after writing it all down. So read each seed packet and calendar their seed start dates together with plant requirements.
While you are organizing the seed start schedule, it’s important to know when your last frost date is.
In New Jersey, my last frost date is typically around or just after Mother’s Day, but in the last few years, it’s been stretched to mid-May. I still tend to plant tenders around Mother’s Day anyway, but watch the weather like a hawk and am prepared to cover anything that is susceptible to frost.
With the last frost date in hand, look through each seed packet. Write down the flower, variety, date of maturity, when it should be sowed, seed starting dates, overall size, and color.
When mine was all written down, I added it to a spreadsheet to organize the information better. Not only does this make planning the garden easier, but it helps hone my seed starting supply list too.
And you can even add a notes column so you can jot down any growing notes of what you learned during the season. Like did this variety need staking? Was it more susceptible to a resident rabbit? Did it germinate with ease?
When to Start Seeds Indoors
Now that we know what it takes to start seeds indoors, when do we begin to sow them? And the answer is, it depends upon what you are growing.
So read the seed packets and determine how long seeds need to be sown before YOUR last frost date.
For me, my last frost date is typically in mid-May, so I count backwards from that date to determine when seeds should be sown indoors.
As an aside, if you are growing some cold-tolerant varieties, you can save some indoor growing space by winter sowing them outdoors.
And that covers this overview of how to start seeds indoors.
In the next blog of the series, I’ll chat more about my seed starting supplies and the basement setup.
This is going to be so fun, isn’t it?
More About Starting Seeds Indoors
What kind of garden do you want to grow from seed? Have you ever started seeds indoors before? I would love to know more in the comments below.
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Shop This Post
If you are starting seeds indoors this year and need to get supplies, I got you! You can get what you need here by clicking on the products below.
Want to Learn How to Grow Flowers With Ease?
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My book publishes on February 6, 2024, but you can preorder now and get a special pre-order bonus chapter you can’t get when the preorder period closes.
Preorder your copy here and get a free, downloadable guide that shares bonus information with tips and unique garden designs to get year-round color in your landscape. Offer ends 2/5/24.
Want To Get More Organized to Start Seeds?
CLICK HERE to get my FREE DOWNLOADABLE PRINTABLE that will help you get organized to sow seeds this year.
Print as many pages as you want and add them to your gardening journal for ease of reference during the growing season.
Garden Supplies I Use
I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. From pruners to deer repellents, here are some of my favorites in no particular order.
- I like to use a good-quality, potting soil, garden soil, compost, and perlite when planting.
- I have used this deer repellent with great success. But now, I’m all about this deer repellent that is systemic instead of topical. This means the plant takes it in as opposed to it just smelling bad.
- Hands down this is my favorite hand-weeding tool. You can use it to get underneath roots, and loosen soil, and it cuts down on the weeding time because you work much faster.
- But I also love this long, stand-up weeding tool to really get around roses from afar.
- I like to use THIS ORGANIC FERTILIZER for roses because the blooms are more prolific and it’s organic.
- You’ll need a sharp set of pruners when working with plants and flowers. I buy a few so I can stash them around.
- I use these garden snips to deadhead and cut flowers from my gardens.
- Where pest and disease problems are concerned, if I need to, I generally use this insecticidal soap or neem oil to help control infestations depending on the issue. When using, only apply when pollinators are less active.
- This is my favorite set-and-forget slow-release fertilizer for houseplants, annuals, and container gardens.
- Whenever I stake my peonies or other plants, I generally use these grow through garden supports because they work really well and keep the blooms upright.
How to Start Seeds Indoors Without a Greenhouse Series
- An Overview (you are here)
- Supplies for Starting Seeds Indoors Without a Greenhouse
- 7 Simple Tips to Getting Organized Before Starting Seeds Indoors
- What You Need to Know About Sowing Seeds Indoors
- 7 Lessons I Learned Starting Seeds Indoors
- What You Need to Know About Hardening Off Plants
- How to Plant a Garden After Starting Seeds Indoors
- 7 Lessons I Learned From Growing a Cut Flower Garden
- How to Keep Fresh Flowers Longer
- Cut Flower Gardening for Beginners
Want to Learn How to Grow a Cut Flower Garden?
And while I strongly suggest starting a cut flower garden from seed, you don’t have to. But you will be more limited to what’s offered at your local nurseries.
From starting seeds to planting and cut flower arranging, this post is for you! Follow these cut flower gardening tips and be sure to check out my best advice for beginners at the end of this post.
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Want to learn more about me?
I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years. With a deep passion for gardening, I enjoy helping others find their inner green thumb with all things plants and flowers, as well as find ways to bring the outdoors inside their homes too.
Get the inside scoop about my background as a master gardener, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging.
A Beautiful Cut Flower Garden in the Pacific Northwest
My good friend Kim from Shiplap and Shells has a gorgeous cutting garden. She lives in the pacific northwest and starts many of her flowers from seed.
And Kim also has an amazing greenhouse where she starts all those seeds. Isn’t it gorgeous?