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Seed Starting 101: Outdoor Basics

April 8th, 2014


We recently asked on our Facebook page what topic you’d like to learn a little more about. Overwhelmingly, many of you responded, “Seed Starting!” Being a seed company and all, we wanted to write a post about this as soon as possible. It may be too late to start seed indoors, but for some of you, it’s perfect timing to start seed directly in the garden.

There are a number of compelling reasons to try seed starting: 1) More plant choices than what’s offered at your local gardening store; including organic, non-GMO, heirloom, and non-hybrid varieties, 2) More control (and fun!) over how your plants are grown, including soil, water, and amendment selecting, 3) A chance to use natural pest and vermin control, 4) To learn more self-reliance skills, 5) Save a great deal of money – we hope this encourages you to take the plunge and try seed starting.

Our Basic Guide For Sowing Directly In Your Garden

Suggested Tools For Seed Starting Outdoors

*Seed of choice (beans, carrots, corn, peas, and radishes are great choices for beginners, and truly do best when sown directly in the garden)
*Soil Thermometer
*Organic (safe) soil
*Organic compost
*Plant labels
*Watering system for gentle watering (“shower” setting on hose or “rose” fitting on watering can, etc.)
*A notepad and pen for jotting down notes

Build Up Your Soil

If you’re starting a new garden bed, remove sod, weeds, roots, and rocks from the area. Vegetable garden soil should be a mix of air and solids, and include clay, silt and loam. Work in 6 inches of compost to enhance the soil structure, and get a soil test, aiming for a neutral pH level. If needed, amend the soil further. You also may want to consider using a raised garden bed, as these will yield more vegetables and save time in the long run. This is because the smaller space shades out competing weeds, and watering/harvesting are more efficiently done.

Plan Ahead 

Ensure your soil is ready to sow seeds by taking the temperature (here’s our guide on how to take soil temperature). When ready, moisten the soil so that it’s the consistency of oatmeal a few days prior to planting. Thoroughly read your seed packet instructions for plant depth and spacing. Most seeds will require planting at a depth 3 times the diameter of the seed. If you’re a visual person, we suggest using a notepad to configure a layout of where seeds will go, and the spacing/depth for each before seed starting.

Sow Your Seeds

First, follow the seed packet instructions for the depth of furrows and spacing between them. Lay out the rows in a north-south direction which will ensure that both sides will receive an equal amount of sunlight during the day. Form the furrows with a rake, hoe, or stick; for perfectly straight rows, we recommend using a board or taut string as a guide. Do your best to sow seeds evenly, spacing them out as the seed packet instructs. If you’re using a large seed packet like we provide, pour the seed in your palm and scatter small pinches of seed as evenly as possible. Some gardeners sow seeds more thickly to guarantee germination, and thin out rows later, while others avoid this chore by spacing seeds out evenly. Tamping the soil (gently pressing on the soil surface after you sow seeds) will help secure the seed for roots to grow.

If you planted different types of seed, some gardeners outline the areas in flour, string, or stakes, while others use garden labels. This will help in recognizing plants as seed germination begins and plants grow, and will reduce the risk of mistaking a plant for a weed.

Water Gently, And Not Too Much

This is essential for guaranteeing high seed germination rates. The soil must stay evenly moist for seed germination, yet you don’t want to spray water forcefully either. The “shower” setting on your hose or the “rose” fitting on a watering can should suit you just fine if you’re a beginner. More elaborate irrigation systems are also wonderfully convenient once you’re ready for this step.

Thinning Out Crowded Seedlings

This is done after seed germination. If you sowed your seeds thickly, or you notice two sets of true leaves, then thinning out the weakest seedling is needed. You can transplant those seedlings into the empty spaces of the bed if available. Here is a great guide on how to do it effectively: How To Thin Out Crowded Seedlings.

Let the fun begin. Lots of luck this year!

***Friends, did you sow seeds directly in the garden this year? How’d it go with seed germination rates? We’d love to hear your success stories too.***

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed. We’re also proud to say we have taken the Safe Seed Pledge!

Does starting your first garden seem too overwhelming or you have limited space? Check out this option: The Tower Garden Aeroponic Growing System.

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5 Easy Tips For Seed Starting Indoors

January 22nd, 2014


Starting seeds indoors can sound confusing to beginner gardeners – especially with the extra steps involved.  Yet the benefits make the extra steps worthwhile. For one, plants have a better chance of thriving in harsh weather, and secondly, seeds are more likely to stay organic from the start.

Here are five tips to get your seed underway.

Prep Your equipment Collect the necessary equipment and supplies for seed starting. You can start simple by using good old-fashioned yogurt cups, seed starting potting mix, and sunlight. As you get the hang of it, you may want to invest in seed flats (large containers that can hold many seedlings), peat pots, nutrient-rich potting mix, a grow-light system built for seed starting indoors, heating mats and cables, and organic compost.

Have A Plan Save yourself a lot of time (and heartache) and buy a Garden Planner before seed starting.  The planner will provide all the information your need for starting your seeds indoors – from when to start and frost dates, to planting seed depth and when to transfer outdoors.

Get Your Seed Cozy Prepare your seeds indoors by first gathering your containers and make a few drainage holes. Fill each container with a moistened seed starting mix (either store bought or make your own), and sow in seeds carefully. A good rule of thumb is seeds ought to be at a depth of about three times the thickness of the seed.

Give the seeds a light sprinkle of water and place plastic wrap or a sheet of glass over the containers for a cozy and moist environment. Ideally, you want each plant to be at a humid 70 degrees F. for optimal germination. Keep the soil moist by misting with water, or filling the trays with water below.

Maintain With Attentiveness When you first notice your seed sprouting, go ahead and move your plants to a bright location (after clicking your heels up in the air!). The bright location can be a sunny window, a greenhouse, under fluorescent grow lights, or an alternative steady high-powered light source. Keep in mind that if you live in an area with little sunlight or short days, you may want to consider an alternative lighting system.

Next, seedlings should be moved into a cooler location. Continue composting and lightly water your plants a few days a week. Also, many gardeners practice gently ruffling out seedlings so that roots and stems grow strong. Once the plant is too large for the container, transfer to a larger one without damaging the fragile root system.

Harden Them Off After consulting your planner (see tip 2), determine the date that you will transfer your plants outdoors. One week prior, begin toughening up your plants by exposing them to the outdoors a few hours a day. Start by placing them in a shady location, and gradually allow for more time exposed to the sunlight and weather patterns. When you’re ready, go ahead and transfer your plants outdoors unless you’re experiencing terrible weather.

***Friends, what are your tips for starting your seeds indoors? Let’s hear your successes! Also, what didn’t work?


About us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease.  Enter seed15 at checkout to save 15% off your next order.

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Guest Blog: Get Your Garden Growing!

April 19th, 2011
Just four years ago I was a self-described brown thumb. It wasn’t because I had definitively proven my inability to grow anything but more because I had given no effort to the task. Until 2008 my gardening was limited to a sunflower grown in vacation bible school one summer and a pitiful tomato plant in one of those “As Seen on TV” upside down contraptions. But as I moved from Brooklyn, NY to my family farm in middle Georgia I quickly realized that without bodegas on every corner, street vendors, amusing cab drivers, and dive bars to keep me occupied I was going to need a hobby.

As I walked around the land a few times with my Dad I found myself falling in love with stories about my grandfather clearing the land and sending lumber off to the mill so as to build both a home and a working farm. I dug my hands down into the cool soil that he too had once allowed to pass through his callused fingers. As if the voice of Kevin Costner had spoken out to me I began thinking that this part of the Earth needed attention. If I tilled it, the plants would come.

For almost three months my wife and I scratched, tilled, and turned the soil. We amended it, watered it, mulched it. We plowed out rows and strung up dividers. We researched plants in our zone and read up on potential seeds. With as much passion as I had once given my photography when on assignment in NYC, I was now analyzing the sunrises and sunsets and rain showers in between. By late spring I felt confident enough for us to plant.

We had long since decided to grow organically for a number of reasons. Having lived in culturally rich area just months before, I was very much in tune with sustainability, the plight of “BIG” agriculture, and harms of pesticides on food sources. But deciding how to grow organically was something that took more than just a passing thought. It took planning, research, determination, and discipline to figure out. From that first season came these tips that I hope to share with you.

5 Steps to Getting Your Organic Garden Started

  1. Plan Before You Plant. We started by reading the Farmers’ Almanac. While they have a timeless print edition they also offer a host of resources online now. You can also go to your local Agriculture Extension office or the National Climatic Data Center to research the average last frost date in your area. From this point check out the back of your seed packet to determine the number of days until germination and harvest. Plant as the weather allows and be familiar with which varieties are hearty and which require more TLC.
  2. Recycle, Reuse, and RepurposePotting Equipment. The best way to start your seeds is to purchase seed starting flats or use cut down milk cartons, chipped pots, or empty plastic containers that are two to three inches deep. Fill the containers with potting soil, gently firm the surface and water until moist. Be careful not to make the soil muddy and wash out the seeds.
  3. Take Cover. There are a number of benefits to starting seeds indoors. The right seed starting supplies and methods can improve germination rates. It’s important that you remain vigilant in the caring for your seeds. Once they are planted, cover the container with plastic and place it in a warm spot in your house. Check the container daily and remove the plastic once seeds have germinated.
  4. Let the Sunshine In. After seeds have germinated, relocate containers to a sunny location. Your third-grade science teacher taught you that plants require water and sun. Well, she was right! Water only when the soil becomes dry, preferably from the bottom, to prevent flooding the seeds.
  5. Push Them Out of the Nest. When your plants are ready to be placed in your garden, dig a small hole for each plant, insert the plant, cover the roots, and water. In just a few weeks or months, depending on the variety, you will be ready to harvest some incredible organic veggies!

About Andrew Odom:

Bigger does not always mean better. Progress does not always mean forgetting our roots in order to forge a new future. Blogger, photojournalist, and hobby farmer Andrew Odom has spent much of the last few years rediscovering the lost art of living, growing, and being truly happy. Visit him online at

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Guest Blog: Jerry’s Garden-Seed Start’n Ideas

February 17th, 2011

Hey Everyone!  Jerry Greenfield here again!  Inspired by Humble Seed’s recent blogs on starting seeds indoors and planning a spring garden, I thought for my guest blog this month, I would expand a bit on indoor seed starting and offer some biodegradable seed pot ideas!  Planting in seed trays is a fantastic idea if you have some extras in your garage or gardening shed, but if not, consider using biodegradable items you may have around the house.  Here are some examples:

  1. Cardboard Egg Cartons: These are perfect for seedlings!  They hold just enough soil, allow for excess water to drain, and are very portable if you end up needing to move your seedlings.  In addition, by re-using these cartons as planters, you’re helping reduce your carbon footprint by getting two uses out of one item.
  2. Egg Shells: Let’s say you have Styrofoam or plastic egg cartons instead of cardboard cartons?  You can still put the shape and portability of the carton to use by planting your seeds inside egg shells.  Remove the top half of the shell and poke a small hole in the bottom for drainage.  When you’re ready to transplant, just break the shell to remove the soil and seedling, and then throw the shell into your compost pile or leave them in your garden soil.
  3. Newspaper Seedling Pots:   Okay, I’ll admit, not many of us even get the newspaper anymore, but if you do, building seedling pots out of the black and white pages is a great way to put your paper to use once you’ve finished reading it.  Here is a video on the “how tos” of building a newspaper seedling pot.  When transplant time comes, you can toss the newspaper into your compost pile.
  4. Plastic Soda Bottles: If you’re a big soda drinker (which you shouldn’t be!) you can use the bottom 1/3 or so of a plastic soda bottle as a seedling pot.  This option is kind of neat, as you can oftentimes see the roots growing in the soil because of the clear plastic.  Be sure to poke holes in the bottom for drainage, and once you’re done with them, wash them out and throw them in the recycle bin.
  5. Toilet Paper Rolls.  Yep, I said it!  And we all use toilet paper, so we all have rolls!  Each roll will get you two seedling pots, so this is a great way to re-use something that would normally just be tossed in the trash.  Similar to the newspaper pots, you would just throw these in your compost pile once you’ve transplanted your seedlings.  Here’s a quick “how to” on creating these.

In addition to these options, many garden supply stores will carry pre-made biodegradable seedling pots which can usually just be planted directly into your garden soil once you move your seedlings outdoors.  Whether you chose to use a plastic seed planter, one of the “around the house” options above, or store-bought seedling containers, the important thing is to re-use, reduce, and recycle.  Oh, and have fun!

Connect with Jerry via his blog and Facebook page: Grow Like Crazy

About Jerry Greenfield:

Jerry Greenfield

My number one focus is growing my own food. I don’t think that really counts as a hobby. For some people it is, but for me, growing my own fruits and vegetables and saving my own seed is the key to survival. The only person you can count on is yourself, if you ask me. The government is trying to “help” us all with GMOs and welfare, but it’s all a crock. I also like to build things and read Transcendentalist authors from the 1860s.

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