FLX Garden: 5 Common Seed Starting Mistakes—and Their Easy Solutions!

Starting your own seeds can be intimidating. But here’s the thing: Seeds are in the world to transform the world, starting with themselves. A seed germinating is absolute magic.
Photo provided by Petra Page-Mann

By Petra Page-Mann of Fruition Seeds

Starting your own seeds can be intimidating. But here’s the thing: Seeds are in the world to transform the world, starting with themselves. A seed germinating is absolute magic.

Cultivating seedlings after germination is both an art and a science.

It took me years to become a confident seed starter, from yogurt cups on my father’s windowsill to decades of experience on organic farms starting tens of thousands of seeds each season.

With the right timing, tools & techniques, seed starting is remarkably fun and easy. I can’t wait to dig in with you! After teaching seed starting to tens of thousands of people, here are the 5 common seed starting mistakes I see people make plus their easy solutions:

Mistake #1: Starting Everything at Once & Too Soon

It’s so tempting, on the first gloriously warm days of spring, to sow all your flowers, herbs and vegetables to celebrate. Like making a cake, timing is everything and starting seeds at the right time makes all the difference. Especially in the age of social media, it’s never been more tempting to start seeds too soon.

Easy Solution: Dig Into Our Planting Calendar

When to plant what? Take a peek at our planting calendar as well as direct sow and transplant charts. We’ll also crow when we’re sowing on social media, so you don’t have to wonder.

Mistake #2: Egg Cartons are for Eggs (Not for Starting Seeds!)

Despite quaint images on Pinterest, egg cartons are too small and curvaceous to grow healthy seedlings. Jiffy pots would be convenient, but their potting mix is too poor quality to grow healthy seedlings, either.

Easy Solution: Options Abound!

The great news is this: You have an abundance of seed starting options, Friends! Soil blocks (see photo), by far, grow the healthiest seedlings, naturally air-pruning never becoming root-bound. Plastic cell trays as well as 6-packs are convenient, though much more prone to becoming root-bound. Peat or ‘cow’ pots are biodegradable and grow great seedlings. As long as you poke holes so they drain, yogurt cups and other recyclables can easily upcycle. Take-out containers can also be used as seed starting trays and toilet paper rolls cut into 1-inch rounds can grow healthy 4-week-old seedlings, as well.

Soil block maker. Photo provided by Petra Page-Mann
Soil blocks for seedlings. Photo provided by Petra Page-Mann

Mistake #3: Sowing Too Close?

Whether it’s sowing too many seeds in a soil block or planting too close in your garden, many gardeners stress their plants by growing them too close.

Easy Solution: The Essential Art of Thinning

For cell trays and soil blocks, simply sow only 2 to 3 seeds per cell. Thin these to 1 seedling once they emerge, selecting the strongest one. When transplanting, bring a measuring tape! It’s easy to sow small seedlings too close, wanting the garden to look lush and abundant as soon as possible. When direct sowing, resist sowing too densely and thin early and often. Most thinnings are delicious, so enjoy them as micro and baby greens!

Mistake #4: Sowing Too Deep

It’s easy to sow seeds too deep, since they only need to be sown twice their depth.

Easy Solution: Only sow seeds twice their depth, how marvelously simple! Check your packet to be sure your seeds aren’t an exception, like snapdragons, who prefer to be sown with light, barely covered.

Mistake #5: Not Wanting to Make Mistakes

Easy Solution: Mistakes are how we learn! Be humble, ask lots of questions & don’t take anything for granted. It’s difficult to learn to ride a bicycle from a YouTube video and gardening is the same! Having friends to share their experiences and cheer you on, especially when you fall off into a puddle (again!) makes all the difference and I’m delighted to join you on the journey.

As always, there is so much more to share! To begin, join our free Seed Starting Academy, our online course sharing hours of step-by-step video tutorials to set you up for success. Also, download our free 40-page seed starting ebook, Rise & Shine: Starting Seeds with Ease. We have gorgeous paper copies available, as well. And a cordial invitation! Join our free Sowing & Growing webinar series, sharing weekly deep dives into the planning, planting & cultivation of all kinds of crops. Next Wednesday, March 31st we’re officially sowing our tomatoes together! Even if you aren’t able to join us live, you’ll enjoy access to the full series of replays & growing guides when you register, so don’t be shy.

Sow Seeds & Sing Songs,


Petra Page-Mann, Finger Lakes native and lifelong gardener, believes each seed — and each of us — are in the world to transform the world. She co-founded Fruition Seeds in 2012 to grow and share the seeds as well as inspiration we need to surround ourselves with abundance in short seasons. Download her planting calendar or join the online Seed Starting Academy for free at www.fruitionseeds.com.

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