To start, familiarize yourself with the seeds you’ll be planting. Read the seed package to find out information such as light requirements and when to plant. Also, be sure to find out the zone in which you live, this will tell you what is appropriate to plant in you area. Next, choose the container in which to plant the seeds. Any container will do, even standard paper cups, just be sure that there’s adequate drainage. To provide drainage, poke a few holes in the base of the cup. Other possible containers include terracotta pots or plastic pots, both of which are found at most greenhouses. Whatever you decide to use for a pot, it should be clean.
The soil you use should be sterile, peat-based germinating mix. It should be light and consistent in texture. Avoid using soil from the garden as it may contain disease organisms. Standard potting mixes are readily available at your local greenhouse or nursery. Before filling the pot, dampen the soil, this will ensure adequate moisture for the seedling.
Generally, very small seeds should be planted on top of the soil while the larger seeds should be planted at a depth approximately 3 times the diameter of the seed. Moisten the surface after planting with a fine mist of water. To encourage germination of larger seeds with hard shells presoak them prior to planting. Another technique is to scratch the surface of the seed, thus making germination easier.
Cover the pots with clear plastic wrap and place them in a shady spot. Most annuals and vegetables prefer a temperature between 60 and 70 degrees. Do not place covered containers in direct sunlight. Check for signs of germination regularly. Once the seeds begin to germinate, remove the plastic cover and place in a bright location. A facing south window is ideal as is beneath fluorescent lights. The plants should be kept in the light for about fourteen to sixteen hours each day. If placed in a window, rotate the plant to prevent uneven growth.
Once the seedlings form their first set of leaves, begin to transplant them into separate containers. This will avoid over crowding in the pot. Young seedling don‘t generally like competition for water and nutrients. Extra seedlings you pull up may be transplanted into other containers. Handle them carefully by the seed or leaves, not the stem.
Plants that have been growing indoors need to be hardened off before being planted outdoors in the garden. Begin hardening off about two weeks prior to bringing your plants outdoors. Slowly increase the ventilation in the room to lower the temperature or move the plants to a cooler room. Otherwise, place the seedlings in a cold frame. Next, move the plants outdoors during the daylight light hours and plant them in the garden after the chances of frost are zero. Avoid transferring the plants to the garden when temperatures are below 45 degrees.