Common Seed Starting Mistakes to Avoid: Beginners Guide

Common Seed Starting Mistakes to Avoid: Beginners Guide

Seed starting can be a tricky task, especially for new gardeners. You might feel excited to see your seedlings emerge from the soil, but don't let impatience cause you to make costly mistakes that could damage your plants. 

From wrong potting soil to over-watering and poor lighting, being aware of common seed-starting mistakes can help save your crop.

In this article, I'll share common pitfalls in seed starting so you don't make any rookie errors when it's time to sow your seeds. Let's get started!


One of the most common mistakes when it comes to seed starting is overwatering. This can occur when a gardener is overly enthusiastic about their new project and waters too often, or if they use too much water in each watering session.

It’s easy to think that the more you water your seeds, the better they will grow. However, overwatering can actually suffocate your seeds and lead to rotting. It’s important to provide the right amount of moisture without drowning the seeds.

Using the wrong soil

One of the most common mistakes made when starting seeds is using the wrong type of soil. Many people think that any soil will do, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. When starting seeds, you need light, fluffy soil that allows for air circulation and proper drainage. If you use heavy, compact soil or garden soil, it can suffocate your seeds and prevent them from germinating.

Failing to provide adequate light

Providing your seeds with the proper amount of light is essential for successful seed starting. Most seeds require between 12 and 16 hours of light each day in order to germinate properly. If you don’t provide enough light, your seeds may fail to sprout or will take much longer than expected.

Sowing too deeply

Another common mistake is sowing seeds too deeply. Many people assume that the deeper the seed is planted, the better it will develop roots and eventually sprout. However, this isn’t always the case. In some cases, sowing a seed too deep can actually prevent it from germinating altogether. It’s important to read the instructions on each seed packet carefully and sow the seeds to the recommended depth.

Some seeds need to be planted deeper than others, but generally, a good rule of thumb is to plant seeds at a depth of about twice their diameter. If you plant them too deeply, they may struggle to reach the surface and may not germinate at all.

Allowing the soil to dry out

Seeds need just the right amount of moisture to germinate and grow, but too much or too little water can be detrimental. When you first plant your seeds, it’s important to keep the soil evenly moist, making sure that there are no dry spots or overly wet areas.

The key is to keep the soil evenly moist throughout the germination process. Once the seedlings start to emerge, you can reduce the amount of water slightly and allow the soil to dry out a bit between waterings.

Planting seeds too close together

One of the most common mistakes made when starting seeds is not giving them enough space. If your seedlings are too close together, they will compete with each other for light, water and nutrients that are essential for healthy growth. When planting your seeds, be sure to follow the recommended spacing guidelines so each plant can get the resources it needs to thrive.


Starting seeds too early or too late

One of the most common mistakes that beginner gardeners make when starting seeds is not knowing when the best time is to start them.  If you don't know which type of seed you are planting, you may end up starting them too late and they won't have enough time to germinate and grow.

Not transplanting at the right time

Another common mistake is waiting too long to transplant your seedlings. Once your seedlings have germinated and started to grow, it’s important to give them enough space to spread their roots and develop. If you wait too long, the roots may become pot-bound and the seedling may suffer from stunted growth. To ensure that your plants have enough room to grow, start your seeds in individual containers and transplant them into larger pots or the garden when they’ve grown a few sets of true leaves.

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Happy Gardening!

Dr. Vandana K.