Whether you save seed from your garden year to year or purchase seed from a garden center, starting a garden from seed is easy. You can sow seeds directly into your garden soil, or you can start them indoors before the last frost of the year to get a jump on the growing season. The key to growing a garden from seed is preparing the soil in advance and paying careful attention to the planted seeds.
Have your soil tested in advance to determine its structure and nutrient content. Land grant colleges in almost every state operate soil testing facilities in conjunction with the college's community and continuing-education service. By contacting your local extension agent, you can find out how to take and package a soil core sample, as well as where to submit it for testing.
Purchase soil amendments based on the test results from Step 1. Common garden soil amendments include a general-purpose fertilizer (10-10-10), compost and either lime to raise the pH of soil or sulfur to lower it.
Break up your soil with a rototiller to a depth of 6 inches as soon as the ground is warm enough to be worked. Spread amendments over the soil to a depth of 4 inches. Mix these amendments with the soil by passing the rototiller over the soil again.
Start your seeds indoors between six and 10 weeks before the last average frost date. Warm-season crops that germinate slowly, such as eggplant, should be started sooner than fast-germinating crops, such as tomatoes. Cool-season crops should be started before warm-season crops. Fill a seedling flat with peat moss and water it until it is as damp as a wrung-out sponge. With a pencil, hollow out a hole in the peat moss container that is twice as deep as the diameter of the seed, and drop your seed into the hole.
Stick Popsicle sticks into the sides of the tray and cover the tray with plastic wrap to hold in moisture. The Popsicle sticks will hold the plastic off the tray. Place the try in a sunny window to germinate. Check the tray daily and water any time the soil appears to be drying out. Remove the plastic as soon as the seedlings germinate.
Move seedlings outdoors during daytime during the two weeks before the last annual frost date. Transplant seedlings into the ground once the last annual frost date has passed.
Create furrows in the ground with a hoe that are twice as deep as the seeds you are planting. Place seeds in the ground and cover the furrows. Water well to encourage germination.