Intro to Seed Starting

Seed Starting with Ferry-Morse® allows you to get a jump start on your growing season by starting indoors when the outside temperatures are still too cold. With these tips and growing glossary, add weeks to your gardening season by starting indoors!

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Why should I use a Seed Starting Kit?

Seed starting greenhouse kits are perfect for both first-time gardeners and seasoned pros. They act as miniature hothouses that create an environment ideal for seed germination, helping to germinate seeds more quickly and uniformly. Once you've started your seedlings you can easily transplant them anywhere from your greenhouse! You can even start your seeds as early as 8 weeks before your last frost depending on the seed variety, ultimately giving your plants a longer growing season (check the information on the back of your seed packets to know how early to start).

Most of our Seed Starting Kits include 1 reusable watertight tray made from recycled plastic, 1 reusable plastic humidity dome, and (if they don’t come with coir pellets) an insert tray made of individual cells ready to add the growing medium of your choice. If no dome is provided simply use plastic film to cover your newly planted seeds. Be sure to read the product details in order to confirm what is included with your Seed Starting Kit!

What is Coconut Coir?

Seed Starting with Ferry-Morse® coconut coir pellets is environmentally friendly, using a naturally renewable source that is a by-product of the coconut industry. Biodegradable pellets are dried and compressed in a secure, fine paper wrapping which makes transplanting mess-free and easy with no root loss or transplant shock. Simply plant pellet and all!

Benefits to using OUR Coconut Coir:

  • Triple washed and unamended, our high quality coir stands alone. Since coconuts grow in coastal, tropical environments, we wash our coir several times to ensure salt levels are acceptable for plant growth and then sterilize at high heat for plant health. Lesser coir products do not go through this process.
  • Coir provides high levels of aeration which helps oxygenate roots for strong-rooted seedlings.
  • Coconut coir is a sustainable, renewable, and abundant resource.
  • Our pellets expand fully in minutes!

When should I use a Heat Mat?

A Ferry-Morse Heat Mat is the secret to speedy and successful seed germination! Seeds need a warm environment to germinate. Nature provides this in the Spring when the ground warms. With our heat mat, you get a jump start on your growing season by starting indoors when the outside temperatures are still too cold to garden. Having healthy, strong plants ready to transplant as soon as the danger of frost has passed will add weeks to your growing season and extend your harvest and yield.

Our heat mat gently warms the soil surrounding your seeds from the bottom-up! The warmth of your soil signals the seed that it’s time to grow. The heat is subtle but constant, averaging 80°. Be sure to keep your greenhouse dome over the tray throughout the germination process to make sure the soil does not dry out. The growing medium needs to stay moist, but not soggy, throughout the germination process. Leave your heat mat plugged in until you see the majority of seeds have sprouted. Once the seeds have sprouted, unplug and remove your heat mat. 

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When do I remove the humidity dome?

Creating an environment where seeds can thrive is the difference between a fair growing season and a great season! After sowing 2-3 seeds per cell (or pot or cup) in pre-saturated soil, it’s important to mist the seeds and then cover with a humidity dome or plastic wrap. This makes a barrier to keep moisture in and keep in the water seeds need to germinate.

It’s critical to keep the seeds moist but not soggy before and after germination. Mist daily, and if in a tray, check the water levels daily. If the seeds dry out completely during the germination process, you will need to start again. Keeping seeds moist is not as hard as you think; just mist and check dome daily for condensation. Look for condensation on the dome.

When should I use a Grow Light?

Most seeds don’t need light to germinate, but they do need sunlight to grow! Grow lights provide both the intensity and spectrum of light that seedlings need. If your seedlings don't receive the light they need, they will become "leggy" (tall and thin) as they stretch toward light. As a result the stems won't have the strength they need.

After the first sign of germination, when you see green sprouts burst through the soil, it's time to move your plants off your heat mat and under a grow light. For best results, leave your grow light on for 12-16 hours a day. Seedlings do need to rest as well, so don't leave the light on 24 hours/day. The grow light will allow your plants to believe they are living their best lives in the sun! Our High Output T5 full daylight spectrum obtains faster growth and consistency.

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What seeds should I start indoors?

Start seeds indoors to give longer-to-mature plants more growing time before the outdoor planting season begins. For vegetables this includes tomatoes, pepper, cucumbers, eggplant, and squash. Flower varieties that prefer to start indoors include morning glories, pansies, zinnias, cosmos, and petunias.

Warm-climate gardeners benefit from starting indoors too - extra growing time to fit in a 2nd round of crops. That’s succession gardening (see glossary below)!

Can you really plant the pots?

Yes! Our paper pots are biodegradable and make life easier by eliminating the need to pot up your seedlings before transplanting. Once the danger of frost has passed and you're ready to transplant, wet the pot thoroughly, tear off the bottom to let the roots run free, and plant pot and all! This method also works for our easy-to-use strips.

  • Our 2” pot works best on your smaller flowers that you want to grow a ton of! Best for varieties like lobelia and alyssum that only need a short time indoors before being planted outside.
  • Our 3” pot is the universal seed starting size! We love it for herbs like basil, thyme, and lavender.
  • Our 4” is our largest pot and perfect for fast-growing plants like cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash! It’s also great for plants that need more time to grow before transplanting, like tomatoes and peppers.

When should I add fertilizer?

Newly-germinated seedlings have the nutrients they need to grow from the seed itself, but they can benefit from diluted fertilizer after 2 weeks of growth. Once “true leaves” appear, start feeding the seedlings with organic liquid fertilizer. Mix half of the suggested concentrated fertilizer into 1 gallon of water. Then, bottom-feed this liquid to the seedlings to prevent over watering.

We recommend SUPERthrive for all of your plant vitamin needs!

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What is Transplant Shock? 

The phrase "transplant shock" refers to the setback in growth that plants experience when moving from one environment to another or from having their roots damaged by a move. Transplant shock is common, but most plants are able to recover quickly if handled carefully. It is incredibly important to not only “harden off” your seedlings (see glossary below) but also to transplant the entire root ball, not just the top of the seedling. The easiest way to keep everything intact is to use plantable pellets, plantable pots or plantable cups. The less you handle the fragile seedling the better!

Look for the icon of a root system on our product packaging in order to identify our plantable solutions, these solutions assist in reducing transplant shock and allow the roots to grow through their pots!
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Thinning your seedlings


Thinning means to remove plants that are too close together to allow healthy plants to grow. You want to end up with one seedling per pot, so choose the strongest-looking seedling to keep. Snip the other seedlings off at the soil line, do not yank from the top or you may disturb its neighbor.

Thinning your seedlings


Hardening off is the term for getting plants acclimated to the outdoors. This is done by gradually (over 7-10 days) introducing them to direct sunlight, dry air, and the colder temperatures of the outdoors for a few hours each day before permanently planting them outside after the last frost date in your area.

Thinning your seedlings


Germination is the growth of an plant within a seed; the result is the formation of a seedling. During germination, with water and warmth, the seed coat splits under the soil. Over a few days or weeks the small root grows downwards and a shoot (stem) grows upwards. This produces a seedling of a plant, which ultimately grows into a new plant.

Thinning your seedlings


A soil-borne fungal disease that affects seeds and new seedlings, damping off usually refers to the rotting of stem and root tissues at and below the soil surface. The best way to prevent this is to only use new or cleaned trays, use light and well-draining seed starting soil mix, and have good air flow by using a small fan or open window.

Thinning your seedlings


When you seed start in plastic cells, you need to get the seedling out, roots and all, before planting in your garden. The best way to do this is to pinch the bottom of the cell or pot, allowing the seedling to emerge intact at the top. Then carefully plant the seedling (with root ball!) in your garden.

Thinning your seedlings


After transplanting your plants outdoors, it is important to make sure the plant and the soil surrounding it is moist. New transplants need to be watered well to establish deep roots. Watering-in also refers to the practice of watering after adding fertilizer or other soil amendments so that the beneficial ingredients can be carried to the plant roots.

Thinning your seedlings


The first leaves that grow on a seedling are called Cotyledons or “seed leaves”. These are usually smooth and plain looking. “True leaves” are the second set of leaves. These leaves are the actual leaf shape of the mature plant. Some people like to pick off the cotyledons after the true leaves emerge.

Thinning your seedlings


Succession gardening is a method of planting a second or third crop after a previous crop has finished producing. This way you can always use your garden space for more fresh produce. Once early-maturing plants have finished, plant a second crop in their place. To get ahead, start seeds indoors first and then transplant after pulling previous crop.

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Ferry-Morse Heat Mat

Ferry-Morse Seed Germinating Heat Mat

Ferry-Morse Grow Light

Ferry-Morse Indoor Grow Light with T5 Bulb

SUPERthrive liquid plant nutrients family.

SUPERthrive Plant Vitamins

Basil growing in a planter with a Ferry-Morse Plant Marker.

Ferry-Morse 25 Count Plant Markers