Many common ornamental plants and edible vegetables can grow from seed. Starting a plant collection from seed is often much more budget-friendly than buying started seedlings or mature plants from a nursery or garden store. Although specific germinating environments vary by the plant species, several general guidelines can help you plant and grow most seeds into healthy green seedlings.
Prepare a compartmentalized seed tray, available from all garden stores. For the best results, use a seed tray that has compartments measuring approximately 4 inches deep. If you've used the tray before, Iowa State University recommends sterilizing it by dipping it in a solution made by mixing 1 part bleach with 9 parts water.
Fill the seed tray's compartments with a commercially prepared, soilless seed-starting mix formulated from peat moss and vermiculite. This is better for germinating seeds than actual potting soil or garden loam, according to the University of Minnesota.
Plant the seeds. Bury one seed in each compartment according to the depth requirements listed on your seed packet. If depth isn't specified, the University of Minnesota says to bury the seed four times deeper than its width.
Mist the seed tray with water until the soil surface is consistently moist, according to Iowa State University. After watering, seal the seed tray shut with plastic kitchen wrap. This locks the moisture into the soil to keep the seeds perpetually moist.
Put the seed tray in a warm area with a temperature of 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the ideal soil temperature for germinating most plant seeds, according to Iowa State University. The seeds will typically germinate within two to three weeks.
Remove the plastic wrap from the seed tray once the seeds germinate. Put the seed tray under fluorescent light bulbs suspended 2 to 4 inches above the seedlings. Keep the lights on for 12 to 16 hours to encourage proper seedling development. Water as needed to keep the soil moist.