Best Seed Starting Method for Your Home Garden

Seed catelogs and seed packets on a table.

In the past 20 years or so, we have started seeds in almost every possible way. Although there are some winners and losers, there are two ways in which we ALWAYS use to start our seeds. However, the best seed starting method is the one that you are most successful with. Let’s talk about the various types of seed starting systems.

Starting Seeds In Pots and Containers

Flower seedlings in a 72-cell flat tray.

Conventional seed starting trays are perhaps the most popular container for starting seeds due to convenience and cost. These trays are available in various sizes, but the most popular size is the 72-cell flat. You do have to use a seed starting mix or get a seed starting 72-cell kit that comes with compressed coir or peat pellets and a humidity dome. We do like using the conventional seed starting method because it allows you to sow a large number of seeds at once.


  • Quick to fill
  • Portable and easy to move
  • Reusable for many seasons
  • Economical, typically less than $7 per kit
  • Easy to find in any big box store


  • Higher failure germination rate without proper tools
  • Needs the aid of grow lights or bright light for germination and growth
  • Needs bottom heat source to aid in germination

Seed Starting in Cardboard Seed Pots and Paper Pots

Zinna seedlings in paper pot.

Seed staring in cardboard or paper pots is similar to using a seed tray. Moreover, this method is particularly good for seedlings that do not like their roots disturbed prior to transplanting outdoors. Because these pots are biodegradable it reduces the transplant shock.


  • The pots are biodegradable—no need to remove the seedlings from the pot before transplanting
  • Does not produce plastic waste


  • No reusable
  • Can be expensive if you purchase them

Soil Blocks

A calendua seedling in a soil block.

Soil blocks are compressed soil media made with a specialized mechanical tool. However, this method allows seedlings to grow in a free-standing block of growing medium, rather than in some type of container. We do love soil block because it allows you to utilize your own DIY soil mix and it helps the seedlings “air prune” as they grow.


  • Creates a more robust root system that spreads evenly throughout the entire block
  • Seeding establishes easily once transplanted
  • Virtually no waste created (no pots needed)


Hydroponic Systems

Seedlings in a hydroponic system.

We have been using a tabletop hydroponic system for about a year now and LOVE it. We mainly use it to grow herbs over the winter and start seeds. Although there are many models to choose from, we use the Aerogarden Harvest for seed starting. This simple hydroponic system provided the water and warmth for the seeds to germinate, then the right quality of light that allows the seedlings to grow after germination.


  • It’s an all-in-one package.
  • Seeds germinate, on average, faster


  • The system is expensive
  • You need to purchase biodegradable grow sponges

Which Seed Starting Method is Best?

Various seedlings in a tray.

For us, we mostly use conventional seed starting in 72-cell flat trays and the Aerogarden. Both systems allow us to start a large number of seedlings at a time. However, no matter which method you prefer, you need to harden off your seedlings before putting them into the ground or containers.

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