Early spring planting gives your vegetables and flowers a jump-start on the growing season. Once the weather warms and the plants go outdoors, they are already stronger and larger than seeds started in the ground at the usual later planting time. For areas in the North with short summers, early sowing gives plants that may not normally have enough hot months to fully mature a chance to grow healthy. The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture advises planting seeds indoors in early spring 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost.
Choose trays or pots that are at least 2 inches deep to sow seeds in. Purchase pots with existing drainage holes or drill holes in the bottom of pots without any drainage.
Fill pots with a commercial seed-starting potting mix. Use fresh potting soil that hasn't been used with other plants to avoid spreading disease. Fill pots within 1 inch of the rim with the soil.
Sow seeds to a depth twice that of their circumference, spacing seeds 3 inches apart in trays or planting two to three seeds per a single pot. Sow fine seeds on the soil surface and cover in a 1/4-inch layer of soil.
Water the containers well, taking care not to wash the seeds out of the soil. Cover the pot or tray with a plastic bag to preserve moisture and temperature.
Place the pots in a warm 75-degree-F room until germination. Most seed varieties germinate within 7 to 21 days after sowing.
Remove the plastic bag and move the pots to a 65-to-70-degree room with a sunny window or place under grow lights once sprouts break the soil surface. Hang grow lights such as shop lights or 40-watt incandescent bulbs 2 inches above the plants, raising the lights as the seedlings grow.
Keep the soil moist at all times. Dispose of any water that drains out the bottom of the pots into the drip trays.
Transplant seedlings outside once their second set of leaves grows in and outdoor temperatures have reached the required level for the plant variety. Move the seedlings outdoors in their pots for 4 hours a day for a week to adjust them to the outdoors before planting in the garden.