Many, if not all, seeds can be sewn directly from the package into the garden. While this method works, it does not give gardeners the optimum chance for a successful harvest. Critters can eat the seeds shortly after planting, and excessive rain can wash seeds away. Starting seeds for the garden can be done before the last frost and raises the chances that more will survive to bear fruit.
Choose easy-to-use seeds if new to seed starting. Choose edibles such as tomatoes and zucchini. Basil, sunflowers and nasturtium are easy to grow and compatible with tomatoes and squash. Easy-to-start flowers include zinnia and coleus.
Seeds can be started indoors earlier than outdoors. It is always safe to start seeds indoors four weeks before the last expected frost. Some seeds can be started up to three months before the last frost. Read the seed package for this specific information.
Choose containers that are at least 2 inches deep and have drainage holes for seed planting. Beginning gardeners often do best when using flats with individual growing cells or trays lined with Jiffy pellets. It is easier to transplant seedlings growing in individual cells because the plant's roots don't get entangled with other roots.
Obtain high quality potting mixes or Jiffy pellets.
Read the labels of potting mixes and ensure you get something that will feed plants for at least three months. Fill flats of individual seed cups with potting soil and place seeds in cups according to the directions on the packet. Some seeds should be planted one to a cup, such as pumpkin seeds. Other plants require three to six seeds to a cup, such as tomato varieties. Dampen the soil well with a spray bottle.
Alternatively, purchase Jiffy pellets and a seed starting tray. Soak Jiffy pellets in warm water for at least a half hour. After they pop up, arrange on tray and place the appropriate number of seeds on each pellet. Water as necessary, depending on what you are growing. Jiffy pellets help beginning gardeners start seeds with a greater chance of success.
Transplant seedlings into larger pots very carefully. Seedlings will need to be transplanted before they are ready to be put directly into the garden.
Time to transplant varies, but when ready fill flowerpots with the same seed starting mixture as used before. Wet the soil.
Dampen the seedlings with a spray bottle. Very carefully pinch the bottom of the seed starting cup to loosen the packet of dirt and roots. Remove contents from seed starting cup and place in larger flowerpot. Top off with more soil or potting mix as necessary and water lightly.
Again, Jiffy pellets are easiest. Fill flowerpot with moist potting mix and add Jiffy pellet/pot complete with growing plant. Fill and water.
Harden plants before transplanting into the garden. After transplanting, give seeds at least a week to recover before hardening.
To harden plants, put them outside in the middle of the day to enjoy fresh air and sunshine. Every couple of days, leave them outside longer. Do this for a couple of weeks.
Transplant into garden. Dig holes in the garden large enough to hold the contents of each flowerpot. Turn pots upside down and gently shake contents loose. Place in holes, cover with soil or compost and water as needed.