Set your garden up for success with these easy DIY seed starter ideas! Plus, tips for starting seeds indoors and when to plant them.
To ensure that your seedlings have the best chance for success, you may want to start them indoors. This post will explain some seed starting basics, as well as lots of ideas to maker your own seed starter pots!
When Should You Start Seeds Indoors?
The first step in figuring out a planting date is to check the directions on your seed packets. The instructions are often vague, but they will usually at least give a general timeline and whether seeds need to be started indoors. Some plants should actually be direct-sown in the ground, carrots for example.
If there are no specific dates on your seed packets, a general rule of thumb is to start indoors about 6-8 weeks before the last frost. The exact date will vary based on where you live and your growing zone. Learn more about growing zones and starting a garden here.
If you start your seeds too early, or they don’t get enough light, they may become “leggy.” This means that they grow long, thin stems that end up being unable to support their weight. Leggy seedlings are not necessarily doomed, but they may not survive.
On the other hand, seeds that are started too late may not have time to grow big enough to go in the ground at their ideal planting time. Again, they may survive, but may struggle with weather conditions.
I use a garden planner to keep track of the different planting dates, germination dates, etc. for my seeds. Using a planner also allows me to take notes of what worked, what didn’t, and what happened with each planting. A big part of gardening is trial and error and learning from year to year.
Are Grow Lights or Sunlight Best?
If you have a good source of natural sunlight in your home, that should be sufficient. However, if there isn’t a place in your home that gets direct sunlight, then grow lights are a useful alternative.
For example, our house has a wrap-around porch, which only allows indirect sunlight into our home. This is great for us because it helps lower our energy usage in Texas’ hot summer. However, it does not provide enough light for my seedlings.
To make sure that my seedlings got enough light to grow, I used small grow lights with good success.
Note: We’ve included shop-able ad links to products we love and use; read our disclosure policy here.
Here’s what I use for seed starting indoors:
- Indoor Grow Light — This little gem was affordable and is working great!
- Seed Starting Trays — I opted for plastic versus compostable so I can reuse them next season. Also, I found that starting seeds in compostable trays or egg cartons made them more susceptible to mold.
How Often Should I Water Seed Starters?
Seedlings usually need watered about once a day. However, it’s not about a set watering schedule, but rather the condition of the soil. The soil should stay moist, but not soaking wet.
If you’re using a plastic cover for your seed tray, this can help keep the soil damp and reduce the need for watering as often.
On the flip side, when you start moving seedling pots outside for part of the day to “harden” them off, direct sunlight, wind, etc. can dry out the soil faster.
What Can I Use as a Seed Starter?
You don’t necessarily need to buy seed trays for your seed-starting project!
There are lots of DIY ways to start seeds indoors and many involve recycling, upcycing, etc. supplies that you already have on hand at home.
Not only are these ideas thrifty, but they are environmentally friendly too! (I do reuse my seed trays though!)
30+ Easy Seed Starters
Click on the name of each project below to open the full tutorial in a new browser window.
How to start a herb garden from Eggshells — Use biodegradable eggshells to create your herb garden and jump-start the season with germinated seedlings before transferring them to bigger pots or your garden.
Newspaper seedling pots — You need just two things to make these easy newspaper seedling pots. A great way to recycle old newspapers!
Compost Tray Seed Sowing — Sowing seeds is easy with this simple and helpful tutorial!
Thrifty Gardening Ideas — Make super simple and quick seed starters out of newspaper, juice cartons, and more!
Quick, DIY, Origami Flower Pots — Quick and easy, making your own newspaper pots is a sustainable way to start your garden.
Tips for Planting Tomatoes — Use small pots to make this simple and easy planter that kids can help with.
DIY Rotisserie Chicken Greenhouse Seed Starter — These DIY rotisserie chicken greenhouses are so easy to make, and they make the perfect seed starter!
How to Make Seed Paper Hearts — Make paper seed hearts with your kids as a fun seed starter that your kids can get involved with.
Simple DIY Seed Pops — You can use any kind of plant for your seed bombs—wildflowers or herbs. Then you just “pop” them into the dirt in your garden and wait for the seeds to grow! The popsicle stick is a ready-made garden marker too!
How to Make Earth Day Seed Bombs — These fun and biodegradable seed bombs are perfect for those kids who are into arts and crafts as well as cultivating the Earth!
How To Make Toilet Roll Pots — Toilet roll pots are an inexpensive way to get your seedlings started indoors while also making use of the toilet rolls you’d normally throw away.
Easy Lemon Seed Starter Kit — This example of a DIY gardening kit is easy to do at home and you start the seeds in used lemon peels.
Soil Blocking — Soil blocking is a smart but simple solution to a lot of problems!
DIY Seed Tape — Making seed tape is a great way to interest kids in growing plants and the process can provide a wonderful conversation starter for talking about what plants need to grow.
DIY seed bombs — These seed bombs would make a great gift or a fun homemade way for your kids to get involved in gardening.
Mason Jar Gardening — Use your old mason jars to start a garden with this easy DIY idea.
DIY Seed Pops — Seed bombs are the perfect gift for people who really love plants. People can make them themselves and they’re so easy to do! All you need is a handful of supplies, and a little bit of time.
DIY Seed Starter for Kids — I love this DIY Seed Starter for Kids because it uses recycled items to create a seed starter greenhouse. This is a great way to get kids started with gardening as they can be involved in the process every step of the way.
EASY DIY Seed Bombs — Even toddlers can get involved with making these easy DIY seed bombs.
How to Start Seeds in Paper Pots — Make your own paper pots for an easy and recyclable seed starter.
Easy Egg Carton Seed Tray — Cardboard Tubes and Egg Cartons are perfect for seedlings and a great way to make a DIY seed tray.
DIY Seed Bomb STEM Project — Make your own seed bombs for easy gardening no matter what you plant.
Starting Seeds Indoors — Starting seeds indoors is simple if you follow this step-by-step tutorial. This seed starting system works for several different vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
Growing Peppers from Seed — Growing peppers is easy with this simple DIY idea to get started indoors.
Winter Sowing — Sowing seeds in milk jugs are a great way to start vegetables, perennials, and annuals in the middle of winter. Of all the seed starting methods, this is by far the easiest and most budget-friendly.
How to Plant Lettuce — Learn when and how to plant lettuce seeds outdoors with this easy step-by-step tutorial.
Easy 3-Step Indoor Herb Garden — Use Gro-ables to help create an indoor herb garden with your kids.
DIY Seed Pops and Garden Markers — I can’t tell you how cool these little DIY seed pops are. Such an easy craft and made even more fun with Cricut, too!
Seed Starter Pots That You Can Do in the Classroom — Sprouting seeds indoors is a great way to bridge that gap from the start of spring until all signs of cold weather have passed and it’s safe to plant a garden outdoors.
The Ultimate Egg Carton Seed Starter for Kids — Before you put your egg cartons in the recycling bin, give them new life as a seed starter. Egg cartons as seed starters are just the right size and a great way to upcycle!
Eggshell Seed Starters — Make these easy seed starters that are earth-friendly and inexpensive.