What supplies do I need for starting seeds indoors?  Here is a list of the seed starting supplies that we use.  You probably have more of it already than you thought.

I requested this literature in exchange for my honest review-all opinions are mine.

Seed Starting Supplies

Montana Bowl of Cherries-equipment for seed starting

Using these simple supplies, we start our seeds indoors every year

When I started my first seeds, I just put some herb seeds in a pot of potting soil in the living room window and hoped for the best.  We use more science now and are results are better.  We wash, sanitize and reuse most of our equipment year after year.

Here is the list of seed starting supplies and then I will break it all down for you.

  • seed starting medium (dirt)
  • pots
  • trays or pans
  • labels
  • plastic tray cover or plastic wrap
  • seeds!
  • Water pitcher and spray bottle
  • lights
  • small fan

Seed Starting Medium

The type of soil helps guarantee success!  The finest medium available gives those tiny seeds every chance to growl.  In fact, the bagged soil is called seed-starting medium.  If you are coming to seed starting as an experienced gardener, many folks sift their compost pile through a screen for their DIY seed starting medium.  Our compost pile is usually covered in snow when I start our seeds.

Montana Bowl of Cherries-seedlings in pots and trays

18 4-inch pots fit in a tray. Tomato seedlings do well starting out in this size pot.


We save the 4-inch pots that plants come in, wash and sanitize them and use them year after year.  We start our large-rooted plants like tomatoes and peppers directly in the 4-inch pots.  It saves a transplant step in about 3 weeks.

Basil, thyme, oregano and most flowers we plant in little 6-cell packs.


The pots or cell packs sit in the trays, the soil in the pots, the seeds in the soil.  Therefore, the trays need to be able to hold about 1 inch of water and need to be large enough to hold several 4-inch pots.

Many companies make a combination package of tray, cell packs, and plastic cover.  These are very handy and are sold next to the seed packets in most stores.  The trays are large enough to hold 18 4-inch pots or the 12 6-cell packs that they come with.  They fit in our indoor greenhouse 4 trays to a shelf.  Once again, the trays are washed and sanitized and used year after year until they spring leaks.

We use to use aluminum cake pans.  They work if nothing else is available but the grooves in the bottom of the seed starting trays work better.

Plastic Tray Cover or Plastic Wrap

The plastic tray cover that comes with the tray works the best.  The next best thing is just to wrap the whole tray, pots, soil, labels, seeds, water and all in plastic wrap until the seeds sprout.

The whole point of the plastic is to give the seeds their own greenhouse environment until they sprout.  It needs to be clear plastic because some seeds need light to germinate and you need to be able to see when to take the plastic off without opening too many times.


If you are planting more than one variety, labels are important throughout the growing season.  We want to keep track of the success of each variety of our tomatoes or peppers.  If you have never seen a seedling go from first leaves to true leaves before, you want a label.

People have come up with ingenious things to make labels out of.  Craft sticks work well.  I have seen wooden or metal spoon garden labels.  We use the slats from window blinds, cut down to size.  What do you have an overabundance of?  It just might work for a weatherproof label.  A permanent marker is pretty important.  Once the plants go outside, the wind and rain make the writing difficult to read very quickly.

Seed Packets

So many to choose from!  Choose your favorite varieties of your favorite plants.  Then choose something new to try for the first time.  You can read how we make our selection here.

Water Pitcher and Spray Bottle

A water pitcher and a spray bottle are more important in our seed starting supplies list than you might think.

Any size water pitcher works.  Throughout the seed starting process, seedlings are bottom watered.  Instead of dumping water into the pots and washing out the tender roots, water is poured into the tray under the pots.  The pots then absorb the water through the holes in the bottom of the pots.

When the seeds are first planted, the soil in each pot is misted from the top to ensure that all the soil in the pot is moist.  That is where the spray bottle comes in.  There will also be times before the root systems have gone deep enough to soak up the water from the tray that the spray bottle will be needed to water the seedlings.  Then it can go back to being the spray bottle for wetting down your hair or keeping the flames at bay on the grill.


For centuries, seeds have started with the light from the sun.  When I started my first seeds all those years ago, I just set the pots in the window sill.  Now we live a LOT further North and sunlight during the those 8 weeks before planting is sometimes hard to come by.  We start so many seeds we don’t have the window space.  So many modern windows filter out the UV rays that plants need.

Montana Bowl of Cherries-copy of Old Farmer's Almanac Vegetable Gardener's Handbook

I love my copy. So many topics inside. Available at http://www.almanac.com

There is great information on lights in the Old Farmers Almanac Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook.  The grow-light options are wide-ranging, from fluorescent to HID (high-intensity discharge) to LED (light-emitting diode),  Each type has an array of power requirements, brightness levels, and color temperatures”

Whichever lights you decide will work best for you, it is important that it is a full spectrum greenhouse or aquarium bulb.  By the way, those grow lights that work so well on your seedlings also help folks suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).


A couple of weeks after starting the seeds, there needs to be air movement around the plants.  Air movement keeps the soil from staying soggy, preventing a host of diseases such as mildew, damping off (where the stem dies at the soil line) or root rot.  It also builds strong straight stems.

A small window fan works great for us.  Since we don’t run the fan on all the plants all day, then one fan is plenty for our 12 trays.  We just move the fan to hit each shelf for a couple of hours each day

Seed Starting Supplies

There you have it!  That is the list of what we use and why we use it.  Hope it helps!  Happy Gardening!




Rhonda Brown lives in rural eastern Montana, surrounded by her family, chickens, gardens and dog. When she isn't writing or weeding, she loves spending time with her family, baking, and all things CHOCOLATE.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: