How to Start Seed Indoors (Part 4 of 6): Sowing Your Seed Properly

By: Maureen Gilmer

The first step of any seed sowing project is to read the entire label of the seed packet. That tells you how deep to plant each kind of seed. Those that are usually started indoors range from 1/8 to 1/2 inch deep. This isn’t a guideline, it’s the hard fact that determines whether your seed will germinate or not.

Whether you sow into trays or directly into individual containers, make sure you use Black Gold Seedling Mix to provide a sterile environment. This is a soil-less mixture often called media. Set aside a spare container of dry media, then moisten the remaining material before filling your containers. Press it gently, but don’t pack down to make sure it remains porous enough to for oxygen and moisture exchange.

If you’re growing in a tray or box, use a stick or repurposed knitting needle to score rows in the media to the depth indicated on each seed packet. If you’re growing in individual pots, poke 3 seed holes at the same depth. Now it’s ready to receive seed.

There’s no challenge with large seeds because these are easy to sow with your fingers. The tiny ones can be a real challenge though. Some gardeners take a piece of scrap paper and fold it in half. Into the V at the bottom a small quantity of seeds may be placed, then the paper held folded. Tap the bottom and from the lower end of the fold will come the tiny seeds. They’ll drop precisely into your rows or pots, one at a time. Beware of planting too densely because this makes it tough to untangle the seedlings when time comes to transplant them.

Once sown, use the reserved dry media to cover the seeds. For deeper planted seed cover them with excavated material from the planting hole or row.

Once all seed is in ground and covered, gently press down the media so that there are few air gaps left around the seed.

When sowing is completed, be sure to seal all remaining seed inside its packet and store in a cool, dry place. If you have an unexpected problem, this back up seed is vital for replanting. Being able to refer back to the instructions in the packet can also come in handy later on.

Seed Sowing Depths for Popular Crops Started Indoors

Plant — Planting Depth

Basil — 1/4″
Beat — 1/2″
Broccoli — 1/4″
Chard — 1/2″
Eggplant — 1/4″
Lettuce — 1/8″
Pepper — 1/4″
Tomato — 1/4″

This article is part of a six-part series entitled How to Start Seed Indoors by expert garden writer and Black Gold contributor Maureen Gilmer.READ MORE ARTICLES FROM THIS SERIES…
Intro: Germinating Vegetable Seeds Indoors: Get A Head Start This March

  1. How to Start Seed Indoors 1 of 6: Read The Seed Packet Before Starting Seed Indoors
  2. How to Start Seed Indoors 2 of 6: Use Clean Bedding to Prevent Damping Off
  3. How to Start Seed Indoors 3 of 6: The Right Container Helps Germinate Seed
  4. How to Start Seed Indoors 4 of 6: Sowing Your Seed Properly
  5. How to Start Seed Indoors 5 of 6: Proper Watering of Indoor Seedlings
  6. How to Start Seed Indoors 6 of 6: Transplant Seedlings Into Pots

About Maureen Gilmer


Maureen Gilmer has been a noted figure in horticultural journalism for over 30 years. She is author of 18 gardening books and writer of Yardsmart, a national column syndicated by Scripps Howard News Service. She is also garden columnist for the Desert Sun newspaper in the international resort town of Palm Springs. Maureen is a public speaker and former host of Weekend Gardening on the DIY Channel. She lives in Morongo Valley with her husband Jim and two rescue pit bulls. When not writing or photographing she is usually out riding her quarter horse.

Content Disclaimer:

This site may contain content (including images and articles) as well as advice, opinions and statements presented by third parties. Sun Gro does not review these materials for accuracy or reliability and does not endorse the advice, opinions, or statements that may be contained in them. Sun Gro also does not review the materials to determine if they infringe the copyright or other rights of others. These materials are available only for informational purposes and are presented “as is” without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including without limitation warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement. Reliance upon any such opinion, advice, statement or other information is at your own risk. In no event shall Sun Gro Horticulture Distribution, Inc. or any of its affiliates be liable to you for any inaccuracy, error, omission, fact, infringement and the like, resulting from your use of these materials, regardless of cause, or for any damages resulting there from.