Seed Starting Methods

3 seed starting methods every gardener should try

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When it comes to growing my plants from seed, there are three main seed starting methods I use; starting seeds indoors, direct sowing and winter sowing. There are pros and cons to using any of these methods. Every gardener should definitely experiment with all three to see which one they like the best. Come on, let’s have some fun with it!



Seed starting methods to try

I start most of my vegetable and annuals from seed every year, and I’ve done a lot of testing with each of these three seed starting methods. I like to use a combo of these three methods, rather than just one of them. I’ve found that some seeds grow better for me if I start them indoors, while others grow better when I direct sow or winter sow the seeds.

Indoor Seed Starting Method

Starting Seeds Indoors

Method 1: Starting seeds indoors

Starting seeds indoors is probably the first thing people think of when they consider starting their own seeds. With this method, you start seeds inside your house several weeks before they can be planted into the garden.


  • You’ll get a head start growing your seeds
  • Plants have a few extra weeks to grow and mature before the garden is ready for planting, which means they’ll flower or produce faster


  • Starting seeds indoors can be messy and takes up space
  • It takes extra care to get the seedlings to survive, and to ensure they’re ready to plant into the garden in the spring
  • You’ll likely need to buy some equipment

Related Post: Help with seedlings, and how to fix common seed starting problems

Direct Sowing Seed Starting Method

Direct Sowing Seeds

Method 2: Direct sowing seeds

With the direct sowing method, you plant your seeds directly in the garden. Direct sowing usually occurs in the spring, but some seeds can be planted in the garden in the fall.


  • Direct sowing is easy and there’s no mess
  • You’ll grow hardy, robust seedlings that don’t need to be transplanted, which means no transplant shock
  • All you need are the seeds, you don’t need to buy any equipment or seed starting potting soil


  • Plants take longer to grow, and some will take too long to mature before frost hits in the fall
  • Seeds are exposed to the elements and can wash away or be eaten by pests before they grow, which can lower germination rates
Winter Sowing Seed Starting Method

Winter Sowing Seeds

Method 3: Winter sowing seeds

Winter sowing is a seed starting method that’s gained popularity over the past few years. With winter sowing, you start your seeds in plastic containers that act like mini greenhouses. Then you put the containers outside in the snow and freezing cold and leave them there until spring. The seeds will grow when they’re ready, just as they would in nature.


  • You don’t have to care for the seedlings indoors, and the seedlings won’t need to be hardened off
  • Don’t need to buy any special equipment, just the seeds and potting soil
  • Can start sowing seeds early so you get a head start earlier than you could plant them indoors or in the garden


  • Seeds can take longer to sprout and won’t be as mature as seeds started indoors
  • Containers can be a bit of a pain to maintain (especially watering and venting) once the weather starts to warm up in the spring
  • Only good for certain types of seeds, and if you live in a cold climate

Related Post: Winter sowing containers

Winter Sown Seedlings

Winter Sown Seedlings

Seeds are cheap, and it’s fun to experiment to see which method works best for you. So go ahead and give all three of these methods a try!

More posts about starting your plants from seed

What about you? Leave a comment below and tell us which seed starting methods you’ve tried, and which ones you prefer.

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One Response to 3 seed starting methods every gardener should try

  1. Trixie says:

    I tried winter sowing once and wasn’t too thrilled with the results. — could have been the choice of seeds/plants, but less than half germinated. It’s important to mention that the soil in the containers should never be allowed to dry out, so there is some maintenance involved in this “low maintenance” approach because you periodically have to add water and/or snow to the tops. Also, it can be a bit awkward removing the plants from the containers once they are ready to be moved to their permanent spot in the garden. If you are opting for an outdoor starting method, I would just go with direct sowing instead.

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