Seed Starting Basics
Starting seeds inside is a great way to get exactly the plant varieties that you want. Many people think that starting seeds is just for seasoned gardeners, but it is not hard to get the basics down. Successfully starting seeds indoors will require a few things:
You can choose to start your seeds in plugs, flats, or peat pots. Ideally you should not start your seeds in any container that is too large. Larger pots hold more water than the seedling can use and this will stress the plant.
Use a high-quality, soil free potting mix for seeding. Potting mix retains water as well as drains well. Soil tends to compact and crack and does not retain moisture.
Heat & Light
If you don’t have the luxury of a greenhouse, artificial light and heat are almost always necessary. Heat is required to begin germination. Regular fluorescent lights will work just fine. Lights should be placed as close as possible to the top of the sprouts, approximately ½ inch. It’s almost impossible to have too much light. It is possible to start seeds in a room or on a windowsill that receives a full day (at least 8 hours) of bright light; however the seedlings may not grow as fast or as strong.
Water before you plant. Allow the potting mix to absorb the moisture. After that, keep potting mix moist, but not soggy. Room temperature water is best.
Choose only the highest quality seeds with excellent germination rates. Refer to the seed package as to when to sow. Also, see our section on When to Sow Seeds to determine the best planting times. What you choose to plant is completely up to you! You may want to grow plants that are not easy to find at your local nursery. Always refer to the package; it will have information on timing, lighting requirements, sowing depth, and optimal germination and growing temperatures.
When seedlings have two sets of true leaves start feeding once a week with a balanced (20-20-20) water-soluble fertilizer at half-strength, working up to full strength after a few weeks.