When you learn the few easy steps to starting plants from seeds, you will open up many additional possibilities of species, varieties and cultivars of common plants such as tomatoes and cucumbers, not to mention flowering plants. Because nurseries can carry only a limited number of different types of plants as starters, you can select from hundreds or thousands of varieties of herbs, vegetables, flowers, bulbs and even trees when you shop online or through seed catalogs. Heirloom, or traditional, types of tomatoes and other summer vegetables provide the kind of old-fashioned flavor you just can't get from today's mass-produced hybrids.
Starting Summer Plants From Seed
Learn when your final spring frost occurs---it will vary from region to region. Six weeks before that date, start your seeds indoors in a controlled environment with plenty of natural light, or provide artificial light.
Prepare your pots or flats by filling them to within 1/2 inch of the top with a good-quality potting soil, into which you have added a bit of sand and vermiculite to improve the texture and drainage. If you use egg cartons, be sure to punch a small hole in the bottom of each "cell."
Check the instructions on your seed packets for details about how deep to plant each type of seed, and then bury your seeds according to the packet. Typically, you'll be planting larger seeds such as beans deeper than smaller seeds, such as basil.
Water your pots or flats well with a gentle spray of water and then place them in an area that receives maximum sunlight every day. Be sure it doesn't get too hot in their location because the new sprouts can easily "cook"---most plants favor sprouting temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Provide artificial lights if you don't have an area with lots of sun. Keep your soil moist until after the plants are 1 to 2 inches tall.
Thin seedlings to 1 or 2 inches apart when they are 1 to 2 inches tall. You can eat baby lettuce and spinach plants, and some others---just pinch off the root and wash off the soil.
When your young plants are 4 to 6 inches tall, transplant them to the garden. Be sure to wait until after your final spring frost. Provide support or stakes for plants such as tomatoes and pole beans.