The following post is a synopsis of the Brian Hammers Gardening In Mojave- Notes and Tips. The full presentation can be downloaded here: The case for starting all your plants from seeds yourself.

Starting your plants from seeds can be a satisfying and cost-effective way to grow your own garden. In this post, we will explore the case for starting all your plants from seeds yourself, and provide some tips and recommendations for doing so successfully.

Why you should consider planting from seed

There are many reasons why you should consider starting your plants from seeds. First of all, it can be significantly less expensive than buying seedlings or established plants from a nursery. Secondly, starting your own seeds can give you access to a wider variety of plants, including rare and heirloom varieties that may not be available as seedlings. Finally, starting your own plants from seed can be a rewarding and educational experience, allowing you to witness the entire lifecycle of a plant and learn more about its growth habits and needs.

Should I start seeds?

If you’re new to gardening or have never started your own plants from seed before, you may be wondering whether it’s worth the effort. The answer is, it depends. Starting your own seeds does require some time and attention, but the rewards can be significant. If you’re willing to put in the effort, starting your own plants from seed can be a fun and rewarding experience.

Three hops, from seed to garden

Starting your own plants from seed involves a few key steps. The first step is to germinate the seeds, which involves providing them with the right conditions for sprouting. Once the seeds have sprouted and developed into seedlings, they can be transplanted into larger containers or into the garden itself. Finally, the plants will need to be cared for and nurtured throughout the growing season.

Side trip! A little plant anatomy

Before we dive into the details of starting your own plants from seed, let’s take a quick detour to review some basic plant anatomy. Understanding the parts of a plant can help you better understand its growth habits and needs.

Two broad types: cotyledons vs. true leaves

When a seed sprouts, it first develops a pair of leaves called cotyledons. These leaves are usually thick and fleshy and are used to provide the seedling with its initial supply of nutrients. As the plant grows, it will develop true leaves, which are thinner and more delicate than cotyledons. The number and shape of a plant’s true leaves can help you identify its species or variety.

Seed starting trays: anatomy of a plug tray

Seed starting trays are specially designed containers that are used to germinate seeds and grow seedlings. One popular type of seed starting tray is the plug tray, which is made up of a series of individual cells or plugs that are filled with soil.

Watering seed starting trays

Watering your seed starting trays is a critical step in ensuring successful germination. It’s important to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, as too much water can lead to mold or fungal growth.

Labeling seed starting trays

To keep track of your seeds and seedlings, it’s important to label your seed starting trays. You can use plastic plant tags or other labeling materials to identify each cell or plug.

The right soil for seed starting

Choosing the right soil for your seed starting trays is important for ensuring successful germination. Seed starting soil should be lightweight and well-draining, with a balanced mix of nutrients to support seedling growth.

Keeping everyone cozy: seed germination mats

Seed germination mats are heating pads that are used to keep seed starting trays warm and cozy. These mats can help speed up germination and improve seedling growth.

Sometimes we skip plug trays

For some plants that grow very quickly, you can skip the plug trays altogether and plant them directly in larger containers or in the garden.


It’s essential to know the ideal germination temperature and time for each plant type. This information is typically on the back of seed packets or can be found online. Some seeds, such as lettuce and spinach, prefer cooler temperatures for germination, while others like tomatoes and peppers need warmer conditions.


Once you’ve planted your seeds, it’s crucial to take care of them properly. Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:

DO: Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Check the soil regularly and water when it feels dry.

DON’T: Overwater your seedlings, as this can lead to damping-off disease, which can kill your plants.

DO: Provide adequate lighting, either by placing your seed trays near a sunny window or by using grow lights.

DON’T: Place your seed trays in a drafty location, as this can cause temperature fluctuations and inhibit germination.


It’s essential to label your plants properly, so you know what you’re growing. Using individual tags for each plant will help you keep track of what you’ve planted, especially if you’re growing multiple types of plants. Use a pencil to write on your plant tags, as the ink from pens can smudge or fade over time.


Light is a crucial factor in plant growth and development. Seedlings require adequate lighting to grow into healthy, strong plants. If you’re growing your seedlings indoors, you’ll need to provide supplemental lighting to ensure they get enough light.


When it comes to lighting, there are a few things to keep in mind:


Hang your lights so that they’re close to the tops of your plants. If your lights are too far away, your plants won’t get enough light, and they may become leggy or weak.


Kelvin is a unit of measurement used to describe the color temperature of light. Plants require light in specific wavelengths, typically in the blue and red spectrums. Cool white fluorescent bulbs have a color temperature of around 5000K, which is ideal for seedlings.


When it comes to lighting, there are many options available. LED grow lights are becoming increasingly popular, as they’re energy-efficient and produce less heat than other types of grow lights. They can be a bit more expensive upfront, but they typically last longer and can save you money in the long run.


There are many options when it comes to grow lights, and new technologies are emerging all the time. One of the latest advancements is the use of smart grow lights, which can be controlled using a smartphone app. These lights can adjust their intensity and color temperature based on the needs of your plants.


Once your plants have germinated and started to grow, they will require feeding to keep them healthy and strong. A balanced, all-purpose fertilizer is recommended for most plants, although some may have specific requirements. It is essential to follow the instructions on the fertilizer packaging to avoid over- or underfeeding your plants.


For most plants, it is recommended to fertilize them once every two weeks. However, some fast-growing plants may require more frequent feeding, while slow-growing ones may need less. Always read the label on your fertilizer and follow the recommended application rate carefully.


To produce strong and healthy plants, it is essential to provide them with the right growing conditions. In addition to proper lighting, temperature, and feeding, exposing your plants to stress can also make them stronger. Gradually reducing watering, lowering the temperature, and increasing light intensity can all help toughen up your plants and prepare them for transplanting.


Once your plants have grown to a suitable size, they will need to be transplanted from the plug trays to larger containers or directly into the garden. It is essential to handle the plants carefully during this process to avoid damaging their roots. Gently loosen the soil around each plant and carefully lift them out, being sure not to touch the stem. Transplant them into their new container or garden spot, water them well, and keep them in a sheltered spot for a few days to help them adjust.


When transplanting your plants, it is essential to ensure that they have long, healthy roots. If the roots are too short or appear stunted, the plant may struggle to establish itself in its new home. To encourage healthy root growth, it is recommended to water your plants deeply and regularly, providing enough moisture to reach the entire root system.


To avoid confusion, it is essential to label each plant in your solo cups with its name or variety. This will help you keep track of what you are growing and ensure that you can identify each plant when it comes time to transplant them. Use a pencil to label your plants, as pen ink can fade or run over time.


To water your plants in solo cups, fill the bottom of your seed plug tray with about one inch of water, then place the cups in the tray. The water will be drawn up through the holes in the bottom of the cups, providing your plants with a consistent supply of moisture. Check the water level in the tray daily and refill as needed, being careful not to overwater your plants.


Once your plants have grown to a suitable size, it is time to transplant them into the garden. Before doing so, it is recommended to harden them off gradually, exposing them to outdoor conditions a little at a time to help them adjust. Once your plants are hardened off, choose a spot in your garden with the right amount of sun exposure and soil conditions for the specific plants you are growing. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball of each plant and gently place them in, filling in the soil around them. Water them well and keep an eye on them as they adjust to their new surroundings.


With a little care and attention, your plants will grow strong and healthy, ready to thrive in their new home. Planting from seeds allows you to enjoy the full process of growing your own plants, from germination to harvest. So go ahead, start some seeds, and watch your garden flourish!