Planting seeds is the most magical of all garden tasks. Even grizzled garden veterans delight in sprinkling seeds into the dirt and watching as those first precious green shoots emerge. Some seeds require exposure to light to germinate, while others should be blocked from light until they sprout. Planting seeds in full sun outdoors takes some special precautions, while a sunny windowsill inside may be the perfect place to start your summer garden seeds.
Read your seed packets or seed catalog cultivation instructions carefully to determine if your plants should be direct-seeded outdoors--like peas, beans, and spinach--or started early in seed trays, such as most perennials, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Check the seed packet again to find out if your seeds require exposure to light to germinate--lettuce, ageratum, and many grass and sedge seeds--or require darkness. Assume that planting under soil or medium in a sunny location will work if the seed packet does not specifically state germination light requirements.
Locate a sunny windowsill, tabletop, or shelf and acquire seed-starting trays or containers to fit for your indoor seed starts. Dampen your seed starting medium, fill your containers lightly, and level them off with a trowel without compacting the soil. Prepare your garden soil for direct seeding by spading compost into the top few inches, watering lightly, and leveling with a hoe.
Plant seeds which require light to germinate by sprinkling them on the surface of your seed-starting containers or garden row. Gently disperse a thin layer of fine peat moss which has been shaken through a screen over light-requiring seeds planted outdoors, to help preclude them from blowing or washing away. Mist these seeds, indoors or out, with a plant sprayer each day until they germinate.
Scrape a trench with a hoe in your garden plot to the depth specified by your seed packet for non-light-requiring seeds, or poke holes to the appropriate depth in your seed starting trays using a pencil or small dowel. Gently pour water into the trench or holes and drop the seeds in at the recommended spacing. Cover the seeds with soil or seed-starting mix and lightly water again.
Leave your seed-starting containers in a warm sunny location until the seedlings are ready for transplant. Water frequently, as sunshine drys out seed-starting containers quickly, but ensure adequate drainage so your seedling roots don't drown. Use a mister to add moisture to the surrounding air. Water outdoor seed plots frequently as well, during early morning or late evening hours to avoid burning seedling leaves with water droplets in sunshine.
Shade your seed rows in outdoor garden plots In particularly hot locations, or for seeds such as spinach or peas which prefer cooler germination temperatures. Set up a temporary shade-cloth screen, or insert twigs of leafy brush into the soil on each side of the seed row, angled so that the leaves shade the sprouting seeds. Remove the shade cloth or brush once the seedlings get their first set of true leaves; lay the brush down on the soil on either side of the emerging plants to help continue to shade and hold moisture in their roots.