The First-Time Gardener: Starting Your Own Seeds

We got our tomato, pepper, eggplant, flower, and herb seeds started yesterday afternoon for the Demonstration garden. It is kind of nice to have a full rack of flats in my office again…even nicer when the seedlings start popping up!

Indoor seed starting is something that many knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced gardeners don’t do. They are perfectly content to buy transplants from a garden center, and there is nothing wrong with that. I grew up starting my own seeds, so I consider it little trouble to do so. It is also fun to start “gardening” a little bit earlier!

Some reasons that you might decide to start your own seeds:

  • You want specific vegetable varieties that are hard to find at the garden center.
  • You plant lots of tomatoes,peppers, etc., so it is actually cheaper to plant your own than buy them for $3 each (Or maybe you have friends, relatives, or neighbors to share seeds with).
  • You want a challenge, or just to try something new.
  • You want some garden therapy in March.

Seed starting (especially tomatoes) is quite easy. The two important things are planning ahead and then not leaving the “babies” for a long period of time so that they dry out and die. Over and under watering are probably the biggest challenges.

For some more in-depth information on seed starting: Starting Plants from Seed

For the Demo Garden, keeping ourselves organized is the biggest challenge. The first thing we did yesterday was write labels for all the seeds. Two more Master Gardeners filled all the pots with soil, while another ran the watering can to get the soil nice and moist. Then the seeding started…one seed per pot, planted about 1/16 to 1/8 inch deep! We used 3″ pots for the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. If I were planting these at home, I would use smaller pots or cell packs. Here, the most important part is that I don’t have to come in and water on the weekends. The 3″ pots hold enough moisture that daily watering won’t be necessary until late April. We also have plenty of space…so we don’t have to conserve in that way. We did plant the flowers and herbs in 6 cell packs, but I’m counting on them to grow more slowly than the tomatoes.

Between the lettuce and cabbage and all the newly planted seeds, my light stand is nearly full. There’s one space left! Of course the lettuce and cabbage should be headed outside next week…we’ll see what the weather does, but I fully expect it to be nice enough to plant.

I don’t think I ever posted a complete list of what we’re planting in the Demo Garden this year. Here’s the list of seeds we started yesterday.


  • Brandywine
  • Rose
  • Solar Fire
  • Celebrity
  • Orange Blossom
  • JTO-99197
  • Chocolate Cherry
  • Sweet Seedless
  • Sweet Cluster
  • Brandymaster
  • Sunmaster
  • Suncherry
  • RFT-6153
  • 4th of July

Eggplant – Kermit

Tomatillo – Toma Verde


  • Sapporo Hot  (Japanese pepper)
  • Yatsufusa (Japanese chili pepper)
  • Shishito (Japanese sweet-hot pepper)
  • Giant Marconi
  • Early Sunsation (for green bell peppers)
  • El Jefe Jalapeno
  • Banana
  • Yummy Snack
  • Big Jim Chile

Flowers & Herbs

  • Bells of Ireland
  • Bunny Tails
  • Gomphrena (Around Purple and Strawberry Fields)
  • Cherry Brandy Rudbeckia
  • Hyacinth Bean
  • Thunbergia
  • Citrus Marigolds (red, yellow, and orange)
  • Cumin

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on March 17, 2010, in The First Time Gardener, Working in the Garden and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Help! I got started a little early with my tomato and pepper seeds. I planted them January 3, 2010. Gardening is my therapy, you know? I now have 12 tomato plants 12″ tall and 8 pepper plants 4″ tall. They are beautiful, healthy and go outside everyday in my recycled playpen/greenhouse. I am tempted to plant them in the garden this week but hesitate because it’s could be too early. What is the earliest date you recommend. Thanks.

    • It really is still too early. The earliest it would be safe to plant them out in our area is April 17th…and even that will be a risk this year, since it’s been a cold spring. However…if you have access to some row cover fabric or plastic, you could make yourself a mini-solar greenhouse over some tubing or wire to protect your plants. Even so, they might not make it.

  1. Pingback: Workshop Handouts & a Giveaway! « The Demo Garden Blog

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