Get a jump start on spring gardening by starting seeds indoors. Some plants are well suited to begin life in warmer, controlled environments rather than direct sowing into the ground as the weather becomes milder. Basil, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chives, leeks, lettuce, onions, peppers, and tomatoes all do well as indoor sown vegetables. Flowers like zinnias and marigolds are also easy to begin inside in early spring.
Follow these easy tips to begin your indoor sprouting:
Adapted from Rodales Organic Life
Time It Right
Use a seed sprouting chart such as the one found here.
Biodegradable pots work great, but you can also reuse last year's nursery flats if you have some around. Otherwise, any container 2 or 3 inches deep will do. Punch holes for drainage into the bottom of containers and set them into trays.
Use Good Dirt
You can buy bags of seed-starter mix or you can make your own seed-starting mix by blending equal parts of perlite, vermiculite, and peat. Add 1/4 teaspoon of lime to each gallon of mix to neutralize the acidity of the peat.
Moisten your medium in the containers before sowing the seeds. Next, drop seeds onto the surface of the mix, spacing them as evenly as possible. Cover the seeds to a depth about three times the thickness of the seeds. Some seeds, such as ageratum, alyssum, impatiens, petunias, and snapdragons, should not be covered at all because they need light in order to germinate.
Top It Off
Lightly sprinkle milled sphagnum moss, a natural fungicide, over everything to protect against damping-off, a fungal disease that rots seeds and seedlings.
Keep Them Warm
Cover the flats with plastic wrap or glass to keep the environment humid and place them near a heat vent or on a heat mat made especially for seed starting. Most seeds germinate well at about 70 degrees.
Mist with a spray bottle or set the trays into water so the mix wicks up the moisture from below.
At the first signs of sprouting, uncover and move the containers to a bright spot-a sunny window, or beneath a couple of ordinary fluorescent shop lights (4-footers with two 40-watt bulbs).
Then Cool Them Down
Seedlings don't have to stay as warm as germinating seeds. Move them away from radiators and air vents, or off the heating mat, as soon they have germinated.
If you're using a soil mix without compost, begin to fertilize your seedlings as soon as they get their first true leaves.
Transplant outdoors as they become large enough and hearty enough to sustain the conditions!