12 Most Common Seed Starting Mistakes—Are You Making Them?

Seed starting is generally pretty easy, but it does come with challenges that sometimes stump (or surprise) even experienced gardeners.

From figuring out the ideal window for sowing seeds to knowing how much light your seedlings need (it's actually more than you think), these are the fundamentals every gardener should know.

If you've struggled with starting plants from seeds, I'm laying out the 12 most common seed-starting mistakes you may be making—and how to prevent or fix them.


Using old seeds.

Onion seeds, for example, are only good for a year at most. Maybe you were able to get that two-year-old onion seed to germinate, but chances are, it won’t reach its fullest potential as a plant.


Failing to account for “days to maturity.”

If you live in a region with a cooler or shorter growing season, this is one term you need to know.


Starting seeds at the wrong time.

It’s common to think that all seeds should be started in spring—but exactly when in spring (or late winter, for that matter) is an important factor too.


Forgetting to stratify seeds.

Stratification (also known as cold stratification) doesn’t apply to all seeds, but it’s the number-one reason some seeds take their sweet time germinating (or refuse to germinate at all).


Starting seeds in native soil.

Without the large soil volume of a garden bed, native soil won’t drain well, leading to problems like overwatering or damping off.

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