Six rules to become a seed-starting pro!

Published on June 3rd 2021
A close up of a flower pot
These six seed-starting tips are vital to new vegetable gardeners so if you're just starting out, dig into these top tips and general planting advice to help you grow successfully. Dig in!

Rule #1

Root crops are planted directly into the ground.
The seeds of root crops should always be planted directly into the ground. Root crops do not enjoy being transplanted. Transplanted root crops suffer from J-rooting where the growing tip of the root is bent back and creates a deformed root.

Rule #2

Leaf and Fruiting crops should generally be transplanted.
Generally speaking, most leaf and fruiting crops will fare a lot better if they are grown with some form of seed starting method and then transplanted. There are plenty of ideas and methods, some cheap and some expensive, we have some ideas for you below.
A close up of cauliflower

Rule #3

Larger seeds are typically planted direct.
Seeds that are larger than a few mm are generally planted directly into the soil. So, Peas, Beans, Corn, Sunflowers etc are all planted directly in the soil, in the appropriate season. They can be started in seedling pots but will do just fine planted directly.
A green plant in a garden

Rule #4

Plant seed 3x deeper than they are long.
So, this is a general rule. Some seeds need to be planted deeper or slightly shallower, but in general, you can't go wrong with this rule.
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Rule #5

Use seed starting supplies.
This is where many people come unstuck. Seedling mix is not a good option for starting seed, it's good for seedlings. Seedling mixes are too coarse for starting seeds, especially small ones and the tiny root dries out in the air pockets in the soil. If required you can transplant into a seedling mix. If however, you have a good germination mix, then you can go direct to transplanting into the final position. A good starting base for a germination mix is1/3 Vermicompost1/3 Coco peat/Coir1/3 Vermiculite. There are many variations to this basic mix, but this is where you can start. Alternatively, just buy a bag of Germination mix from Livingseeds or your local nursery. Another great option is to use a Jiffy plug that has been specially formulated to start seeds from scratch. Just add water. More about seed starting options below.
A close up of a flower garden

Rule #6

Soak seeds.
Nope, not all of them, but some seed will really benefit from a 6-12 hour soaking, as they have moisture resistant or exceptionally hard seed coats. Swiss Chard BeetrootParsleyCeleryMost other common vegetable seeds don't really need to be soaked but these four will really shine if you take the time to soak them. Soaking other seed can assist in germination, however, it's not a requirement.
A glass cup on a table
Livingseeds gives you plenty of seed starting options. We do this as we know that every gardener has their own preferred methods and techniques for starting seeds.
I think the most important thing to remember is that there are only general rules for planting, it's not an exact science and there are many ways to get the same job done. That said, the rules above are pretty fixed, yes there is leeway, but if you follow the rules you WILL succeed.
So let's talk seed starting. Seeds need a few things; a moist environment, air, correct soil support for the roots and the right temperature to germinate, only much later does the seedling need food.
Let's run through each separately.
  • Moist Environment:
Seeds need this primary element to begin the germination process. The environment that the seed is in needs constant moisture, however, it must not be waterlogged. Too much water will suffocate the seed and cause rotting.
  • Air:
Air is critical as the tiny seed/seedling needs access to air to breath. No air and the seed dies. too much air (caused by a coarse soil mix) and the seed dries out and dies. The correct germination mix will solve this issue for you.
  • Support:
The tiny roots will require support to allow the seed to push through the germination mix. No support and the tiny seedling will not develop the strength to grow correctly, both above and below the ground. Using the correct germination mix of the right consistency will provide the correct support structure to the developing roots and seedling.
  • Temperature:
Every seed has an ideal temperature range for germination. Note that this is a range and not a specific temperature. Every Livingseeds seed packet has the ideal temperature listed and you can go a few degrees either way.
  • Food:
Seeds do not need any form of food to germinate. The seed itself is the best initial food for the seedling, only once they have reached the 2-4 leaf stage will any form of food be required for the tiny seedling. So only feed from that stage.
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