Must-Have Equipment to Get Indoor Seedlings Off to a Great Start

Starting Seeds

It’s exciting to buy packets of seeds and imagine what you’ll grow. Sometimes you’ll need to start seeds indoors. Not all seeds transplant well, but many benefit greatly from getting a head start inside. Before you get started, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got everything you need. 

seedlings in pots

Essential Supplies for Starting Seeds

Containers and Trays

The first thing you need to get started is something to put your seeds in. You’ll want to find something sterile with appropriate drainage. Plug trays and plastic cell packs are an inexpensive option that will fit easily into a tray to keep plants organized. Small individual containers can also be used, like peat pots. There are also trays with pellets of compressed peat that will expand when you add water to them for planting your seeds. Some people even like to start their seeds in eggshells or egg cartons. Remember that if you’re reusing any container, be sure to sterilize it so that it doesn’t carry any contamination over.

Humidity Domes or Plastic Wrap

Sometimes, you’ll need to keep a lid on your seeds. Humidity domes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can be as simple as a clear plastic dome that fits on your pot or tray, or they can be part of a system with grow lights and heating pads. In a pinch, plastic wrap can also work to keep your plants consistently moist as you wait for them to germinate. As soon as you see that your seeds have germinated, take that dome off and let the seedlings get some air. This will help prevent the frustration of your seeds damping off.

Grow Lights

Seeds have particular lighting needs for proper germination. Some seeds need to be planted shallowly so they are exposed to light and dark cycles. Most seeds need at least 14 hours of strong light, and indoor window light is rarely good enough. Don’t use incandescent lights. They give off too much heat and don’t produce enough light in the blue spectrum for good results.

Fluorescent light fixtures are popular for rapid growth and are easily available. Shop lights can be a relatively inexpensive solution to set up to give your plants plenty of full-spectrum light.

Want some help? There are also dedicated fixtures and tubes available if you don’t feel confident building your own or want something ready out of the box. 

This article by the University of Maryland Extension goes into detail about the technical aspects of setting up grow lights for best results.

Heating pads

Each plant has an optimum germination temperature. Some plants will not sprout at all or will have a poor germination rate unless they get exactly the right conditions to get started. Heating pads can give your seeds the precise soil temperature they need. These heating pads can save you money in wasted seeds and allow you to start multiple seeds with different requirements in the same room at the same time.

seeds sprouting

Other Equipment for Indoor Seed Starting

There are a few more items that you’ve probably already thought about, but we’ll touch on briefly. You’ll want to make sure you’ve got a way to water your seeds: a watering can with small holes and a spray mister should be sufficient. In addition, you’ll want to label your seeds so you’ll remember what you planted where! You’ll also need seeds and an appropriate potting medium.

All of these items can be as fancy or as simple as your needs and budget allow. You don’t need to invest a lot of money to get your seeds started indoors, but a little planning on the front end will definitely help you get a head start on your garden. 


It’s fun to watch your seeds sprout indoors, and starting them indoors gives you a little bit of time to prepare your outdoor area for when you’re ready to begin transplanting.

References

Grow Lights by University of Maryland Extension
Starting Seeds Indoors by Illinois Extension
Planning for indoor seed starting University of Minnesota Extension


Written by Teresa Chandler