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How to Start Seeds Indoors Without a Greenhouse

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.

A few years ago, I started a new cutting garden that was really fun. And, starting the flowers from seed indoors was a super cool experience that helped beat the winter blahs too.

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?

Let’s go!

(Posts on stacyling.com may contain affiliate links. Click HERE for full disclosure.)

preorder my book the bricks 'n blooms guide to a beautiful and easy care flower garden

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.

For starters:

  1. Better control over growing conditions (light, temperature, moisture)
  2. Early start to the growing season
  3. Protection from harsh weather
  4. Reduced risk of disease and pests
  5. Ability to grow rare or specialty plants
  6. More efficient use of garden space
  7. Budget-friendy way to grow plants
  8. It’s a rewarding experience
  9. Helps beat the winter blahs
zinnias and dahlias in potager garden by farmhouse

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.

snapdragon seedlings close up

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!

vintage thrift store find shutters with milk glass vase and fresh cut flowers from the garden

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.

last bouquet of flowers from the cutting garden in 2022

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.

zinnia flowers in the cottage garden
Zinnia flowers in the cottage garden

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.

starting seeds Indoors Without a Greenhouse - close up of seeds that arrived from floret flower farm

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:

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.

Hardening Off Plants After Starting Seeds Indoors - close up of indoor seed starting equipment with seedlings under grow lights

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.

snapdragons and larkspur flowers in cottage garden that are deer resistant flowers
Snapdragons and Larkspur

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!

close up of seed packets from floret flower farm
Hardening off Plants after starting seeds indoors - close up of statice seedings

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.

Taking Notes before starting seeds indoors- How to Start Seeds Indoors Without a Greenhouse

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.

How to Plant a Garden After Starting Seeds Indoors

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?

snapdragon bouquet with view of front porch garden and gomphrena truffala pink

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?

zinnias in the potager garden on a gorgeous sunny day
Zinnias and dahlia flowers

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.

And don’t miss joining my Gardening DIY and Decorating Community on Facebook for more chatter. And follow along there and on Instagram as well. There are behind-the-scenes daily things that I share on Instagram that don’t make it to the blog. Would love to see you there too!

If you prefer to binge-watch Bricks ’n Blooms on TV, we go more in-depth with tours and posts on my YouTube channel. Would love to hang out with you there!

And… If you’re catching up on blog posts you may have missed, be sure to sign-up to get my newest posts via email to stay up to date with everything that’s happening here on the blog and more.

Close up of Seniorita Zinnias and sunflowers by front porch- easy care cottage garden ideas

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?

If you’ve always wanted to grow flowers but struggled with where to start or how to create something beautiful, I got you. I wrote a book that shares all the things you need to know to grow a beautiful and easy-care flower garden.

  • Have you never met a plant you couldn’t kill?
  • Have you dug around in the dirt with nothing to show for it except a sunburn and a sore back?
  • Do you currently enjoy growing flowers, but are looking for more tips and ideas to level up your gardening game?

Then the Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide to a Beautiful and Easy Care Garden Book is for YOU!

the bricks 'n blooms guide to a beautiful and easy-care flower garden

What’s in the Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide?

  • Gardening basics to set you up for success
  • Great garden design ideas with ready-made plans for you to follow
  • Easy-care instructions for a wide variety of flowering annuals, perennials, and shrubs
  • Helpful how-tos for container and cut flower gardening
  • Graphs, charts, and lists to help you stay organized

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.

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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.

snapdragon seedlings close up

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.

close up of creme caramel coreopsis
Click here to shop my vintage farmhouse with close up of the front porch with flowers

How to Start Seeds Indoors Without a Greenhouse Series

How to Start Seeds Indoors Without a Greenhouse

Want to Learn How to Grow a Cut Flower Garden?

Would you like to learn how to grow a cut flower garden this year? I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to grow your own flowers to cut and enjoy bouquets all season long.

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.

Follow THIS cut flower gardening guide for beginners.

Cut flower gardening is so fun! Home and Garden Blogger Stacy Ling

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close up of senora zinnias in new jersey garden zone 6a
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Thanks for stopping by the blog today!

Enjoy your day! xoxo

About Me

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.

stacy ling cutting dahlias in her garden

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How to Set a Cozy Fall Harvest Table with fresh cut flowers from my garden that include zinnias, dahlias, hydrangeas and sedum autumn joy
Cottage Garden with Seed Starts in front of a backyard garden shed with wood picket fence.
This entire garden was started from seed indoors

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?

white greenhouse with dahlias and white picket fence by shiplap and shells cottage garden in the pacific northwest
Photo by Kim at Shiplap and Shells

How to Start Seeds Indoors Wihtout a Greenhouse
Benary giant wine zinnia - Zinnias grow failry tall and need staking. Zinnia in my gardening zone 6a summer flowers. This is Zinnia 'Benary's Giant Wine'
close up of ‘Benary’s Giant Wine’ Zinnia
How to Start Seeds Indoors Without a Greenhouse
How to Start Seeds Indoors Without a Greenshoue
How to Overwinter Dahlias and Other Tender Bulbs
Home and Garden Blogger Stacy Ling cutting zinnia flowers in her cottage garden with wood picket fence in front of garden shed
After deadheading flowers
How to keep fresh flowers longer

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  1. Pingback: Seed Starting 101 - Growing a Cut Flower Garden Series - Shiplap and Shells
  2. What a great post! I am growing some plants from seed for the first time, this year. I am so excited and your post has been so helpful! Happy planting. 😊

    1. Thank you so much Kim! I’m so happy to hear that. We will be doing it together then! It will be a really fun gardening journey. I can’t wait to see what you grow!

    1. I’m so excited you are starting form seed too! It will be so fun to grow all of our gardens together. I can’t wait to see what you grow!

  3. Great post!! I’m going to start mine in the basement too. Trying to figure it all out now…can’t wait for your next part where I can let you do all the work and then see what I have do!!!

    1. hahahahaha thank you! I’m so glad we’ll be doing it together. I’m so excited to see what everyone grows this year!

  4. I love your post Stacy! I’m sending everyone that doesn’t have a greenhouse over to your blog! Thank you for sharing my pictures and link. You’re my favorite garden friend!

    1. Thank you!!! I’m so excited to do this! We just planned out how we are doing the set up. I hope we find everything for it over the weekend. This is going to be so much fun to do with you!!

  5. Pingback: Shiplap and Shells - Weekly Wrap Up - Shiplap and Shells
  6. I always start my seeds like you did and was thinking about a grow light system this year. Thank you so much for the tips. My hubby said the same thing lol. So excited!!

    1. Thanks Corine! What are you growing this year? I just got some supplies yesterday! I can’t wait to set it up! xoxo

  7. I jumped in the seed wagon a bit late and floret flowers.com is sold out of almost everything. What other seed companies can you recommend?
    M Kimmel

  8. Pingback: Mitten Moments - cottage in the mitten
  9. Pingback: Bricks 'n Blooms Weekly 64 - Stacy Ling