From Seed to Garden in 6 Easy Steps

Can't decide whether you should start your own seedlings or just buy plug plants from your nearest nursery?

Go on, start your seedlings yourself. It's easy and you'll get a lot more for your money!

Step 1 – Gather the materials:

  • Containers (mushroom containers are my favorite )
  • Sowing soil
  • Water, pencil and sticks or other markers
  • Seeds

seed packets, water, pen, plant markers and a pot of soil on a table.

Step 2 – Sow your seeds:

  • Consult our sowing calendar to make sure you start your seeds at the right time
  • Put the soil in your pre-drilled container
  • Moisten the soil a little beforehand (optional, but preferable)
  • Sow the seeds at the depth indicated on the packet
  • Cover with soil and press with your fingers to compress the soil a little over the seed
  • Identify (memory is a faculty who what already?)
  • Water gently and deeply
NOTE: I like to use a sports bottle to pour gently. I do not recommend the use of a spray bottle for seedlings because often this does not allow you to moisten deeply enough.

seeds in the palm of a hand over a pot of soil, seed packet

water pouring into a container of soil

Step 3 – Don't forget about them:

  • Place your seedlings near a window (preferably facing south or southwest).
  • Keep the soil moist, but not soggy (make holes in the bottom of your containers to drain the water).
  • Germination temperature, around 22-25°C, usually your house temperature or a little warmer.
  • Using a seedling heat mat and an adjustable thermostat can be a good option to compensate for the decrease in heat brought by the window or if you do not have a place at 22-25°C in your house. The top of the refrigerator is a warm place and can act as a heating mat without spending a penny.
  • DO NOT use the clear lids sold with seedling trays to 'keep in humidity'. Often, these lids retain too much moisture and this causes the seeds to rot. It is better to water regularly and let the ambient air regulate the humidity level.
  • Read our article on how to get seedlings right


two pots of soil with an ornamental mouse straddling the two

Now there's nothing left to do but wait...

Step 4 - Light

Once the seedlings have emerged from the ground, you will need to provide them with 14-16 hours of sunshine per day. A window with full sun is a perfect spot. Remember to turn the seedlings occasionally so they grow straight if your only source of light is the window.

You can use a seedling lamp too. This must be kept about 15 cm above the seedlings. You have to be able to raise it as the plants grow to constantly maintain the gap between the light and the plants. Otherwise the seedlings may grow too leggy.

small containers of young seedlings

Step 5 – Harden off your plants

A few weeks before transplanting to the garden, remember to harden off your plants. To do this, take your plants outside to acclimatize them to the wind and intense sun in order to prevent transplant shock (sunburn for example). At first, take them out for only 5 minutes a day, then 10 minutes, 15 minutes… then the whole day and finally overnight.

If you have a small greenhouse, you can transfer your potted plants into it in mid-May (zones 3-4) or when the temperature at night reaches 7-10°C.

Young tomato plants in a greenhouse

Step 6 – Planting out

Once the plants have been hardened off and the risk of night frost has passed, you can plant out in the garden.

If the stem of the plants is too long and fragile, plant horizontally, laying the stem completely on its side. This will promote the appearance of roots and therefore the possibility of fetching more nutrients and water and anchoring itself well in the soil for resistance and increased growth potential.

To maximize the flow of water to the roots, I like to use the 'small pool' technique for garden vegetables like tomatoes, squash and cucumbers. This technique enables you to maximize watering.

To do this, dig a hole and add two good shovelfuls of compost. Place the plant in it and bury just enough to cover the root ball. There must still be a hollow between ground level and the top of the clod. This depression is filled with water and allowed to percolate. Then fill in with the rest of the soil and form a depression that will direct the water from the next waterings directly towards the root system of the plant. Water again. Below are photos of a tomato plant using the pool technique.

tomato plants in the ground with a small pool of water around their base

Fertilizers such as compost tea or granular hen manure can be added 1-2 times during the summer to promote optimal health and production.

So, what are you waiting for?

Happy sowing!


Julie Ross, artisanal seed producer


Practical tools for planning your plantations:

Hardiness zones: What's Your Hardiness Zone? – Le Jardin de Julie


Average last spring frost date: Date of Last Spring Frost | Canada | Climate Atlas of Canada