Starting plants from seeds can feel like an overwhelming task for those new to home gardening. However, with the right tools and equipment, it can be an incredibly fulfilling experience that leads to bountiful harvests.

To help you achieve success, this blog post covers the essential items needed to create an effective seed starting setup for better results.

Reasons Why Gardeners Start Plants from Seeds

Starting plants from seeds is a common practice among gardeners. The benefits and advantages of starting plants from seeds are:

Greater Control Over the Growing Process

  • Grow longer season crops in shorter season climates
  • Control when plants reach maturity suited to your growing climate
  • Transplant seedlings at their right stage of growth to limit stressors
  • Allows you to control the growing environment and conditions, leading to healthier and more robust plants.

Increased Options For Varieties

  • Grow plants not available at local greenhouses or garden centers
  • Choose varieties suited to your location
  • Try rare or unusual varieties

Save Money

  • Can save seeds from open-pollinated or heirloom varieties to plant next season
  • Starting plants from seeds can be significantly less expensive than buying transplants from a garden center.
  • Choose the number of plants to grow based on your needs, whether 1 plant or 100, allowing you to save money by not wasting excess plants.

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What items do I need to create an indoor seed-starting setup?

When it comes to starting seeds, there are a few key tools that you should have on hand. These tools will help you get your seeds off to a great start and give them the best possible chance of growing into healthy plants. Here are the essential tools for seed starting:

Seedling Trays and Inserts

Base or Watering Trays

Bottom watering trays are used to provide a consistent water supply to plants. Water is added to the tray, allowing the soil in the cell tray or insert to absorb moisture from the bottom up.

These trays hold cell trays, tray inserts, or individual planting pots. They range from 1 1/4 inches to 2 1/2 inches deep.

Cell Trays & Inserts

Cell trays are used for gardening to start and grow seedlings before they are transplanted into larger containers or directly into the garden.


I recommend using 1020 trays and inserts sized to fit them. It makes choosing trays and inserts easy for beginners and allows you to add options to your setup over time.

Individual containers

Individual containers are larger than cell trays and are used for potting up seedlings that are not yet ready for transplanting into the garden, giving them more space and time to grow.

Seed Starting Medium

A seed starting medium is a growing medium, typically soilless, used for starting seeds. It can be purchased premade or assembled from ingredients such as coco coir, vermiculite, and perlite.

The Rusted Gardener has a great Youtube video detailing how to make your own seed starting mix. This is the recipe I use, except I substitute coco coir for peat moss. I find the coco coir works better for me in my dry, desert climate.

Potting Tray or Tub

A potting tray or tub is a container used to hold seed starting medium for filling cells or containers, providing a convenient workspace for starting seeds.


I love using cement mixing tubs to mix my ingredients!

Plant labels

Plant labels are small tags or markers that are used to identify the type of seeds or plants in a cell or container, providing an important tool for keeping track of seedlings as they grow.


Seeds are an essential supply for seed starting because, without them, you’ll just be staring at a tray of dirt, hoping something you want will magically grow (spoiler alert: it won’t).

Check out my post sharing links to online seed companies!

Humidity domes

Humidity domes are important for seed starting because they create a mini greenhouse environment that helps to retain moisture and heat, promoting faster and more successful seed germination.

Heating mat & temp controller

A heating mat with a temperature controller is important for seed starting because certain seeds require warmer temperatures to germinate. The controller ensures that the temperature remains consistent, preventing overheating or underheating of the seeds.


Fertilizers are substances used to provide essential nutrients for plant growth. Since seeds are started in a mix without fertilizers, gentle fertilizers need to be applied to support plant growth.

Watering supplies

Luckily, you only need 2 tools to quench their thirst:

Water – we need it and our little plant babies need it too.

  • watering can for bottom watering and fertilizer mixing
  • mister to keep the soil moist on top before those precious seeds emerge.


A fan is important for seed starting, as it helps to simulate a gentle breeze that strengthens young plants and prevents the growth of mold and disease.

Grow lights

Grow lights provide the light necessary for photosynthesis and healthy plant growth.

Hanging hardware is essential to ensure that the lights can be positioned at the optimal height for your plants.


A timer is important for the lights, as it helps to automate the grow light schedule and ensure that plants receive consistent and adequate lighting.


Shelves are an essential component for seed starting. They not only hold the seed trays and provide ample space to hang grow lights at the optimal height for ideal plant growth, but also offer a convenient storage solution for other tools such as misters, potting tubs, and fertilizers.

Pest and Disease Prevention and Control

Pest and disease prevention and control items like hydrogen peroxide are necessary for maintaining healthy plants. They help to prevent and control the spread of harmful diseases and pests that can damage or even kill your plants.

Wrapping up and my experience with creating a seed starting setup

Now you know the essential items you need to create a seed starting setup.

I assembled my setup over time because I didn’t have a comprehensive list like this – my lack of essential equipment was reflected by poor initial results.

While the list of items in this article is much more extensive than using recycled yogurt cups and a sunny window, investing in the essential equipment up front is worth it for improving the likelihood of you starting plants from seed successfully.

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