Gardeners who know how to start seeds properly, save themselves time and money, plus get the added benefit of seeing the entire process from seed to blossom, knowing that it was a successful project. Greenhouses can't possibly grow everything in every color to suit customers, so you're at an advantage by being able to buy and grow the seeds of the flowers in the colors and varieties you want. The key to germinating seeds faster is in the details.
Read the instructions on the back of the seed packet. Note the expected germination time at 72 degrees Fahrenheit and whether the seeds should be covered or not. Seeds that are planted incorrectly will most likely not germinate. Divide the seed packets up by their germination time; you'll need to plant an entire tray that will germinate at the same time so you can take them off the mat to grow on their own while placing the next tray over the heat to germinate. Don't plant all of the trays at the same time, but plant them as space on the grower's mat becomes available.
Pour room temperature water into the large plant tray to 1 inch deep. Place the six pack trays into the water, and scoop the potting soil into them to the top. They will float until the water is absorbed into the soil. Level the soil off, but don't press it down.
Check the water absorption by pulling up one outside corner of a six pack. If the water in the tray has been absorbed yet the top of the soil is dry, add 2 cups of water. The top of the soil should begin to get darker than the sides, which shows that it has absorbed enough water to reach the seed for germination.
Mark the plastic plant markers with the flower name and today's date on one side, and the expected germination date on the other. If you're filling the entire tray with one type of flower seed, you only need to mark one; if you're planting varieties, use a marker for each six pack. It's easy to get confused when you're planting six different things in one tray, so mark each six pack as you put in the seeds.
Plant the seeds according to the depth suggested on the back of the seed packet. Use your finger to approximate the depth and make an indentation in the soil. Pour the seeds into the palm of your non-dominant hand, and use the fingers of your other hand to pick up the seeds and place them into the right cell. This also gives you a free hand to immediately place the marker into the six pack.
Cover the seeds with the appropriate amount of soil per the directions. Gently press down the soil to make sure the seed and soil make a firm connection. Some seeds should be left uncovered and will not germinate if not exposed to the light.
Plug in the grower's mat, and check that it begins to heat. On most mats, there is a metal frame that keeps the tray above the mat, not on it. This is to help maintain the proper temperature, which is usually 70 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the tray on the frame.
One important factor that often gets overlooked is air circulation around the tray. The microorganisms in the dirt, the water and the heat are the perfect recipe for mildew or mold growth, which is not what you want. Set the fan a few feet away and set it to it's lowest speed. This will provide the air circulation that will prevent spore growth and give you healthy seedlings.
Remove this tray, and replace it with another as soon as the 90 percent of the seeds have germinated. Seedlings like a cooler temperature as they grow bigger.