An educational resource of the Victory Horticultural Group, LLC


Victory Heirloom Seed Company - Preserving the future, one seed at a time!

 "Preserving the future,
one seed at a time."

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We are an early signer of the Safe Seed Pledge

All of our rare and heirloom seeds are public domain, open-pollinated, non-hybrid and chemically untreated. No chemicals, unstable hybrids, patented or genetically engineered seeds!

Click here for Heirloom Tomato Seeds and Information.

Starting Plants from Seeds

Although the images on this page show the process of starting tomato plants from seed, the same procedure can be used to start nearly any plant varieties that do not suffer from root disruption while transplanting.

Question:  Just tossing seeds into the ground works fine for nature, it should work fine for me, right?

Answer:  Yes and no.  Keep in mind that in nature, one plant might produce thousands and thousands of viable seeds in the effort of ensuring its genetics survive into the future.  Out of those seeds, if a few plants survive all of the adversities of the local ecosystem (climate, pests, disease, etc.), it is doing good.

Question:  The surface of the soil in my pots grew a white (or gray) mold and my seeds never came up (or emerged and rotted off).  What is this?

Answer:  It sounds like a fungi called Sclerotinia and causes the condition called "damping off".  Click here for more information.

Gardening is an attempt to harness nature.  To improve our success rates, we work to control various aspects of the natural processes.  Starting seeds in containers is a way to lengthen our growing season by beginning earlier than we otherwise could out of doors.  It also allows us to provide near perfect, pest free conditions.

Start by determining the best sowing date for your area.  Use your last average frost date to help decide when you need to start indoors.  The planting guide table gives suggestions as to how early to start various types of plants.

Peat pellets (see fig. 1) are a cheap and convenient way to get seeds started but pots and flats work as well.  Begin by placing the pellets into a pan and cover with warm water.  In about 30 minutes, the pellets are fully hydrated and expanded to their full size.  I move peat into the middle of the pellet, completely filling the preformed hole.  Using a sharpened pencil as a dibble, I create 3 to 5 holes, depending on my needs, that are about 1/4 inch deep.  Place seeds into the holes, cover, water, and place a plant stake marking the variety sown (fig. 2).
1. Compressed peat pellet. 2. Hydrated pellet with seeds in place and marked with the variety 3. Seeds germinating in trays 4. Ready for potting.

Keeping the seeds warm and moist, germination should occur with vigor and consistency.  Figure 3 shows tomato seeds after about 7 days.  Figure 4 is the same group of plants after 16 days.

5. Close-up. 6. Removing the pellet's netting. 7.  Removing the pellet's netting. 8. Plants in pellet without netting.

As you can see in figure 5, the plants are nicely developed and roots are beginning to protrude through the pellet's netting.  I personally choose to remove the netting and divide the plants.  For tomatoes, disturbing the roots in this way actually has the positive effect of stimulating root growth and creating healthier transplants.

9. Plants in pellet without netting - top view. 10. Separating plants. 11. Placing plants into pots. 12. Ready to get growing.

I transfer into four inch pots and use a high quality, organic potting mix (fig. 10-12).  If you with to skip the step of removing the netting and dividing the plants, or if the plant types you are working with are harmed by root disruption, trim all but the strongest plant off at the soil level.  The whole pellet with the remaining plant can then be potted.

Also note that you do not need to start with peat pellets.  You also will have success filling a small (3 to 4 inch) pot with sterile seed starting mix (available in garden centers) and scattering the seeds on the surface.  Cover lightly and keep moist until germination occurs.  When plants reach about the size in figure 4 above, divide and transplant.

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