The longest wait for a gardener comes in late winter. The seed catalogs are arriving and your fingers are itching to get into the soil. The good news is it is finally time to start vegetable seeds indoors so they are ready for spring transplanting. Starting seeds inside extends the gardening season and gives plants a healthy start once they are planted outside. It also allows vegetables that require a long growing season time to mature in colder, short season climates.
Sterilize seed starting pots before use. Mix 1 part bleach with 10 parts water and rinse the containers in the solution. Rinse under clean water to remove the bleach.
Fill each container with a moist seed starting soil. Make your own soil by mixing one part peat moss with one part vermiculite.
Sow two to three seeds in each pot. Sow seeds to a soil depth twice that of the seed's width. Sow extremely small seeds directly on the soil surface and cover with ¼ inch of vermiculite.
Mist the surface of the soil with water in spray bottle. Seal each pot in a plastic bag and place in a warm 65 to 75 degree Fahrenheit room to germinate.
Check the seeds daily for germination, which takes 7 to 14 days for most plant varieties. Remove the plastic bags once germination occurs and sprouts appear, then move the pots to a sunny windowsill or place under grow lights.
Water the seedlings as necessary to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Empty the drip trays under the pots so there is no standing water, which may lead to disease.
Thin the seedlings so only the strongest plant in each pot is left once the seedlings produce their second set of leaves. Cut off the weaker seedlings right at soil level with sharp scissors without disturbing the stem of the seedling you are keeping.
Transplant seedlings outside once they have their third set of leaves and the proper planting time as indicated on the envelope has arrived---usually after the last frost date in your area.