A successful garden starts with seeds. Growing seeds yourself is not only cheaper than buying starts, it insures your seedlings are strong, healthy and looked after. Some seeds, like radish and cilantro, can be sown directly into the garden, while other plants do better if sprouted indoors before transplanting outside. Planting seeds in soil isn’t as easy as burying seeds and waiting for them to grow. Seeds have different planting depths as well as different light and heat requirements. Young seedlings need daily care and watering to flourish into good plants.
Label your containers before planting. Include the type of seed, the date and any special watering or light requirements the seed has.
Read your seed packet instructions carefully. These should give any information specific to that seed.
Pay attention the estimated number of days until maturity, because this will help you determine whether or not to start your seeds indoors. Plants that have longer maturing times like squashes should be started indoors to prolong their growth season. Find out the estimated last frost date in your area to decide when you should start your seeds.
Find out if the seed needs to be prepared before sowing. Some hard-shelled seeds like peas and lupine need their shells softened. To soften seeds, rub them gently with fine sandpaper and soak them overnight in water.
Germinate seeds before sowing if indicated on the packet or if you’re not sure how old the seeds are. You can germinate most seeds on a wet paper towel inside of a plastic bag set in a warm, dark place.
Moisten your potting mix the day before you plant the seeds. Seeds should be sown into well-drained potting soil that is not too wet or too dry.
Make tiny seeds like carrots or lettuce easier to sow evenly by mixing them with sand and sprinkling the mixture over the soil. Use twice as much sand as seeds. You can pick them out later if you accidentally sow them too densely.
Follow the seed packet’s instructions about planting depth. Not all seeds should be buried when you sow them because they need some light to germinate. Very small seeds like basil should just be placed on the surface of the soil and pressed in. In general, plant seeds at a depth that is three times the width of the seed.
Use tweezers to plant germinated seeds. Pick up germinated seeds by their shells without disturbing the tiny roots and place them at a depth that is three times the width of the seed with the root facing downwards.
Find out the temperatures the seeds need to grow. For most seeds sown indoors, a spot in a sunny window is enough light and warmth. Cover the seeding pots and trays with transparent plastic until the first sprouts appear, then remove the plastic. Seeds planted outdoors in the garden can also be covered to protect them from early season cold snaps.
Water seedlings every day taking care not to overwater and flush the seedlings out of the soil. Unless the seed packet instructions specify otherwise, transplant seedlings outdoors when they have two sets of true leaves.