Growing plants from seeds is rewarding and builds self-reliance. The process requires more work and time than simply purchasing seedlings from a nursery but closely links a gardener with the cycle of life.
Seed and Germination
A seed is a "dry dormant embryo," according to Nancy Bubel in "The Seed Starter's Handbook." Some seeds require light to germinate. Place these seeds on top of soil or loosely cover with soil. Other seeds require darkness. Push these seeds into the soil and completely cover. Germination begins when the seed takes in water, the first step that starts the process of putting out roots below and leaves above soil. Water starts the processes in the seed's endosperm "the stored plant nourishment" that stimulates growth.
The visual part of germination occurs when a stem pushes through the soil. Two initial leaves called cotyledons emerge. Cotyledons are different in appearance from later sets of true leaves. The plant with cotyledons is anywhere from 1/4 inch to 1 inch tall at this time.
A seedling is officially called such when true leaves beyond the cotyledons develop. Transplanting seedlings to larger containers with more soil or to garden beds is done after true leaves have developed.
A seedling with vertical growth that sets leaves not too far apart is considered a young plant. The ideal distance between internodes -- the places on the stem where new leaves appear -- is short. Plants with long weak stems and long distances between internodes are not ideal candidates for planting.