seed starting

Short Cuts and Tips – Starting Seedlings

With a few short cuts and tips starting seedlings and getting them to a size you can transplant is a lot easier and less time consuming than many would have you believe.

Keep This in Mind

A lot of what and how you do it, depends on what methods work with what you have going on in your life at the time.  As I’ve stated in many posts, principles remain fixed but the ways to accomplish those principles are unlimited.

Germinating Inside – Growing Outside

Most of my vegetables I start in pots or preferably the bottom part of jugs if I have them. About 9 of these fit on top of my washing machine. Most germinate in about 6 days.  The slowest can take two weeks. 

They go outside the day they germinate so they can get the light they need. 

cabbages, cilantro, chard, arugula, late onions, lettuce

It’s only when temperatures are in the 30s (or lower) or if the wind is extreme that I’ll put my makeshift cold frame over them. If temperatures are so severe at night that they need more protection I bundle a row cover fabric and put over them and then put the cold frame over that.

This method makes strong seedlings that don’t have to be hardened off like those grown inside.

A Way to Save Time, Containers, and Grow Mix 

By sowing a plentiful amount of seed in a container, you can save time, containers, and grow mix.

I find this to be especially good for most cold weather crops.  Pictures provided here will give you an idea of how many I sow per container. You can do whatever suits you.

It’s my finding that cold weather crops  do just as well planted small as they do if they’re the size you’d buy at a nursery. Once I see the set of true leaves I don’t hesitate to transplant. And often I’ve planted even before they get their first set of true leaves.

Chard – First set of real leaves showing

Cilantro with first set of true leaves.

Lettuce especially does not object to being tiny when transplanted to the garden.

I spilled seed when I sowed so there are lots of seedlings. It’ll still do fine.

Although you can plant the same way with warm weather crops (tomatoes, cukes, eggplant, etc) I find it better to put about 3 seeds per container for those.  Then let them get a few sets of real leaves before transplanting.  By that time they’ll be the size or larger than what you get at a nursery.

(See this post for picture and more information.)

Another Time Saver

I do NOT pot up anything to larger pots unless there is a special reason to do so.  It’s far  too time consuming AND takes even more grow mix. 

Another Tip for Success – Have Backup

In the real world of your garden, every plant doesn’t always make it. That doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. It’s just the way of nature.

Even with the most robust plants you can lose some after transplanting.

When planting cold weather crops as shown in the pictures here, I plant the biggest seedlings first.  Even if I think there is no more room to plant, I leave the smaller seedlings in the container.  Many of those will get a lot bigger. If one already in the garden ends up missing, you’ve got a replacement.

3 varieties of cabbage

Want to Know More?

I’ve written 49 posts that pertain to or mention seed starting.  You can review all of them by going to the home page.  Under Popular Organic Gardening Topics click on the topic Seed Starting.

Suggested for Reading Next:

Adjusting the Wintersown Method to Allow You to Start Vegetable Seedlings Without Indoor Lighting.


All content including photos is copyright by All Rights Reserved.


  • I learned winter sowing from you years ago and it continues to serve me well. Thank you for these updates!

  • Theresa, I love this time of year. Seeing the seedlings makes me happy and hopeful for the season to come. Thank you for sharing your tips.
    Carol Y

  • Hiya Theresa!

    Thanks for the tips. I’ve got some wintersown gallon jugs going and also some mini-greenhouses made out of 15Qt storage bins, all sitting on concrete steps on the east side of my house… well ok, this morning they’re still sitting in the mudroom after 50 mph winds yesterday. But their home is the steps where the house shelters them from late afternoon sun and (usually) the prevailing winds.

    I knew at some point soon the greenhouse effect was going to be too hot but wasn’t sure exactly when. I think your post is a timely answer to my question. This wintersown stuff is awesome! So far have transplanted onions, perpetual spinach, sorrel and lots of lettuce, all started in jugs. Have lots of warm weather crops and flowers off to a real good start which will be more than ready by mid-late April and early May.

    Thanks so much for your common sense, helpful website and advice.

    Take care and God bless,

  • Very good info for new gardeners and likely a number of not so new. Like you I learned the hard way but it was fun learning so gardeners never give up, some years things just don’t grow right you can learn from those years.

    Happy gardening Theresa

    Ray Kent

  • Gulia, I’m so glad this was helpful. You and another reader’s email to me was the inspiration for writing this post.
    Hugs back,

    Betty, thanks for sharing this. And thanks for still reading after all these years. Think of you often and it always brings a smile to see you’ve joined the conversation.

    Hey Carol! Yes, I love it too. Spring gives us new energy. And —
    It’s always a joy to share with the greatest readers in the world!
    Thanks for adding a comment.

    Harold, I was delighted to hear that this post might have provided an answer to your question about the greenhouse effect.
    Sounds like spring is in full swing at your place.
    Keep up the good work.

    Ray, yes, you and I learned the hard way — but as you said — it was fun AND
    some years things just don’t grow right but we learn from that.
    Always appreciate hearing from you Ray.

    Becky, you are so welcome!! It pleases me so much that TMG has been helpful
    to you.

    Pat (Patricia),
    Glad it was helpful. You and Giulia inspired me to write it.

    Thanks everyone for the always encouraging comments!

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