"The Do’s and Don’ts of Seed Starting
The best way to grow a green thumb is just to plant a garden each year and learn from your mistakes. But an old gardener’s tips can sometimes steer you away from failure. Here are the ones I go by:
1. Read the seed packet and obey its directions. If it says to start a vegetable ahead indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last likely frost, do that. Note specific directions such as covering the seeds lightly, or not at all. Other seeds will be sown directly in the garden at the seed packet’s recommended time.
2. Use a good-quality, fine-textured, sterile soil-less mix for germinating indoor seeds, to avoid damping off.
3. Large seeds can go directly into cells or pots, a few in each, then thinned. But most seeds are tiny and are sown in small trays or flats to start. Then as soon as they germinate, lift them carefully and plant them individually in cell packs or pots. The younger they are when you do this, the better they will grow.
4. Good light is the most important, and often the most difficult thing to provide. Windowsills never seem to be sunny enough, and dimly-lit plants become tall and spindly. A set of broad-spectrum florescent lights suspended right above the seedlings gives great illumination~plus some heat. The lights under your kitchen counter might work if you install full-spectrum bulbs. Raise your flats closer to them (4” to 5”) with some bricks~or fat cookbooks.
5. Harden off your transplants progressively by putting them outside for increasing periods of time on nice days, but don’t rush them into the ground. Especially if they’re warm-weather crops like tomatoes. Plants set out later will quickly catch up to early-planted, shivering ones.
6. If you use peat pots for your transplants, tear off the rims and slash the sides. Handy as these are, they are actually quite hard for roots to penetrate.
7. Keep your leftover seeds in a cool, dry place. With many you can sow several times throughout the season for a steady supply of a favorite crop."