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Planting seeds and herbs for the garden

Merriment :: Planting vegetable, herb and flower seeds for the garden

After a brutal Chicago winter I’m aching for spring. So today I planted vegetable, herb and flower seeds for our back deck garden. Now I’ve tried planting seeds many times before with mixed results …I’ve learned that using professional seed-starting germinating mix rather than regular soil makes a big difference. Give it a try.


First decide what you’d like to plant. I chose peppers, lettuce, herbs and various flowers. Remember to look at the back of the seed packet to check sunlight requirements to make sure it will thrive in your garden, deck planters or windowboxes. I pretty much always plant basil …it’s hard to mess up and so nice to have it fresh on hand throughout the summer.

Here are some super fun seed kits to try or to give as gifts:

Merriment :: Planting vegetable, herb and flower seeds for the garden

I like to soak my seeds overnight in small dishes to give them a jump start. Soaking helps seeds germinate more quickly by tricking them into thinking they’ve been planted longer. See the layer that forms around basil seeds? They’re ready to go.

Merriment :: Planting vegetable, herb and flower seeds for the garden

Pour your seed starting germinating mix into a large bowl or bucket. It’ll be fine and dusty. Moisten it with water until it feels slightly damp. You’ll notice that even when damp the seed mix is light and airy. If you’re re-using seed trays be sure they’re thoroughly washed with warm water, no soap. Use your fingers or a spoon to press into seed tray cells, avoiding compacting it down too much. If you’re using self-watering trays follow the package directions to make sure the soil makes contact with the self-watering mats.

Merriment :: Planting vegetable, herb and flower seeds for the garden

Group seeds that sprout around the same time, say, 5-10 days, in the same covered tray. If you don’t then your seedlings might mold while waiting for their covered neighbors to sprout, and if you take the cover off to save the seedlings you’ll dry out the non-sprouted cells. I like to write the seed names and planting times on wooden planting markers to keep organized.

Plant your seeds in the cells at the soil depth recommended on your seed packet. I tend to go overboard by putting 2-4 seeds in each cell which is a bit wasteful but ensures something sprouts. Just be sure to cut back any extras once your seedlings get their second set of leaves.

Keep your trays in a good light source, moist at all times but not wet. It’s best to keep them around 65-75 degrees and it’s a good idea to use a diluted solution of liquid fertilizer.

Take the cover off once the seedlings sprout. Remember once the cover is off you’ll need to water more often. When you’re getting ready to plant, about 1-2 weeks prior, ‘harden’ them off slowly by putting them outside for a few hours a day.

David Smith

Tuesday 4th of February 2014

Thanks for the seed starting info. We have started seeds for the garden several times in the past, but I've never heard of starting them by soaking in water overnight. I'm going to have to try that this year. We put in a small garden in our back yard last year and this year we are going to expand it and clean up all the junk to make room.

Merriment :: Kathy Beymer

Monday 1st of September 2008

Hi Kevin, thanks for your comment! Nice of you to stop by. I bought the self watering seed starter sets at and I've updated the "supplies" list above in this post with links directly to the products. There's a range available ...I purchased the kit which came with the germinating mix and then an additional APS 40 tray. I am now a big fan. Enjoy!

Kevin Walsh

Saturday 30th of August 2008


I'm in Chicago too- in Hyde Park; and yes,it was a tough winter. My question- where did you get the self watering seed starter sets in the pictures?

thanks much,



Monday 7th of April 2008

so much hope in a little seed...

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