A benefit of starting your plants from seed is that it's an inexpensive way to grow a greater variety of plants. The requirements for the seed to germinate are detailed on the seed packet. These not only explain the planting time, they also tell you how much sun and water the plant will need. When planting seeds, refer to this information so you know when to plant. Tender annuals that don't tolerate frost, like many vegetables, can be started indoors four to eight weeks before planting outside. Cold-tolerant plants do best when started right in the garden.
Read the seed packet for any special germination requirements. Soak hard-shelled, hard to germinate seeds, such as morning glory, in warm water overnight or scratch the seed coat with sandpaper if stratification is required per the packet instructions.
Fill seed starting pots with a moist, sterile potting mix. Use purchased pots or poke two holes in the bottom of clean plastic containers, such as the ones yogurt comes in.
Sow one to two seeds in the center of each pot. Sow large seeds to a depth that is twice their width. Sow very small seeds, such as impatiens, on the soil surface and cover with a fine sprinkle of soil.
Mist the surface of the soil with a spray bottle until it is moist. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap to help preserve moisture during germination.
Check the seed packet for light requirements for germination, as some seeds require light and other require dark. Place the pots in a warm room that supplies the amount of light required until they germinate, approximately five to 21 days, depending on the seed variety.
Remove the plastic wrap once sprouts appear. Place the seeds in a warm room and provide six to eight hours of natural light or 12 to 16 hours of artificial light. Keep the soil moist at all times.
Prepare a well-draining garden bed that receives the amount of sun recommended on the seed packet. Remove any weeds then apply a 2-inch layer of compost. Work it into the soil with a hoe or power tiller to provide soil nutrition and to help with drainage.
Sow seeds to the recommended depth on the seed packet. Plant in rows following the spacing requirements for the particular plant type.
Water the bed until it is evenly moist. Continue to water enough to maintain moisture, providing approximately 1 to 2 inches of water per week.
Apply a 1- to 2-inch layer of mulch to the bed once seeds sprout. Mulching prevents weeds, maintains soil moisture and prevents the fruits on vegetable plants from sitting on the soil where they may rot.