REAL food Garden & Apiary | blog

We are an urban homestead based on natural, holistic and sustainable principles. Our livestock includes chickens & honey bees and we cultivate fruits, vegetables and kitchen herbs.

03 – Sowing seeds indoors; The Year in Review at 7HH-G

One of the key steps we take to get our vegetables, herbs and flowers off to a great start is sowing seeds indoors. We grow 75% of all the plants in our potager under grow lights indoors before transplanting them out in the spring and early summer. The date of sowing and then transplant dates are coordinated with the estimated date of the last frost for our city.

Previously, we would set up a folding table in our dining room and hang some garage shop lights from wood 2×4’s – this limited how many trays of seeds we could start at one time. This past year , we built a shelf system out of recycled wood we had here at home. It works for us even if its not completely plumb square.


Early version of sowing seeds indoors on a folding table.


Fluorescent light fixtures with cool light bulbs are hung across the seed trays – we try to keep them about 2″ from the surface to get the seeds to germinate. Then we raise the distance of the bulbs as the plants begin to grow. Lights are on for about 16 hrs. and then turned off for 8 hours each day.  We also use aluminum foil around the shop lights for helping to keep the seed surface warm and the light focused on the germinating plants.


First couple of seed trays with their aluminum foil covering.


As mentioned before, we sow seeds for spring plantings based on the estimated last frost date , which is around middle to late April for us here at 7HH-G. The cells with the seeds are bottom watered in their tray – water not absorbed into the cell within 20 min. is removed and stored for the next watering. Some larger type plants like zucchini and mellons are started in larger pots.


A variety of plants can be started indoors under grow lights.

When time for transplanting arrives for early spring vegetables, they are transplanted out with no hardening. Backfilling the transplant with our 7HH-G made compost helps to get them off on the right foot.

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Multiple varieties of lettuce being transplanted into raised beds in the potager.

Other plants need some hardening and will start to get regular sessions of sun indoors and then will get time outdoors in full sun and the elements before being transplanted.


Seedlings will start to get more regular doses of direct sunlight as they mature.





These seedlings are getting hardened off with some time outdoors to get accustomed to temperature and direct sun.

There are several benefits to starting seeds indoors under grow lights – the following list of reasons are what are important for us here at 7HH-G to use this approach :

  1. Propagation history – in other words, we know exactly how our plants are started before being transplanted into the potager. No gmo seeds, no chemical fertilizers, no magic fairy dust.
  2. We get to select the exact seed variety we want – no wondering or guessing what we paid for.
  3. Coordinated transplant times – through a little bit of planning , we give our plants the best possible time to get into the raised beds in our potager.
  4. Cost savings – seed packets, germinating soil mix, some electricity and water for the number of seeds we sow is much less expensive per plant when compared to a big box or nursery store plant. Guaranteed.
  5. Sowing extra transplants to share with friends and family – sharing is caring.

Depending on your growing season where you are located, you most likely still have time to try this approach for your garden this coming year – caring and nurturing your seeds to germinate and grow into seedlings is a great experience. Give it a try and see for yourself how fulfilling it is.

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This entry was posted on December 28, 2015 by in Recap posts.
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