|Some vegetables require an early start. Some plants, like tomato plants, require a fairly long growing season and in colder climates require that you start them inside weeks before the weather permits planting them in the garden.
Look through the display of seeds at your nursery or hardware store for information on the length of the growing season and planting times. Check out this moon phase planting zones chart for specific information. This will tell you if your selected seeds require that they be started indoors.
Each seed packet carries instructions as to the length of the growing season as well as temperature and light requirements for the plant. If you are a beginner, stick to the easy ones the first year. Plants like tomatoes, peppers and herbs are ideal for the novice gardener.
Materials for starting seeds indoors
Seeds are alive but in a state of hibernation. By adding moisture and warmth you will stir them into growth and start them on their path to maturity. You can decide which seeds you will bring to life, and when you wish them to awaken. It is almost like magic and very convenient for the organic gardener.
Now is the time to begin planning your garden layout on paper. Design your plot in such a way as to rotate your crops from one year to the other. Be sure to locate small plants on the south side of your garden with larger plants on the north side. This will minimize shading and shadows which negatively affects growth.
Some seeds and transplants are so big and sturdy that they can be planted directly in the soil of the garden. Others are tiny, or have such exacting requirements of warmth and humidity that they need special soil preparation, sterile conditions, and attentive care such as the two step seed starting method. (see link below)
The one-step seed starting method
When the moon is in the proper phase or second quarter moon (i.e. waxing) place sterile peat moss or vermiculite and the seeds into containers that are large enough to take the seeds from germination to transplanting.
If done correctly, and you have sized the planting medium properly, the plants will be able to be placed directly into your garden without the need for transplanting seedlings from pot to pot as they grow. 4" peat cubes are the easiest to work with.
Sowing seedsSow seeds by putting two or three in each dampened container and place them into flats. Do not add any fertilizers at this point. Cover with newspaper and put them in a warm place. Check daily for signs of germination. Remove the newspaper when this happens and move the young plants to a place where they can get some light.
Thinning out the seedlingsOnce the seeds have germinated, and produce their first true leaves, thin them out by removing all but the hardiest seedling from each holder. When the weather has stabilized, the moon is in the proper phase and the seedlings have grown to transplant size you will be able to plant them directly into your garden.
Creating a mini greenhouse
Now that the plants have been thinned out water them thoroughly and place on a tray in a large plastic bag. Make some ribs to support the plastic bag from old coat hangers or flexible rods to allow for growth.
Keep your mini greenhouse at a temperature of about 75° in a bright, but not sunny, location. Be sure that they stay damp but not soaked. Add a weak starter solution of compost tea or a good organic fertilizer to the water to promote hardy development of the plants and their root systems. Monitor the moisture carefully for the plant's water requirements. If the soil is too wet the plants will die from dampening off disease, too dry and they will not develop as well as they should.
Using a mild solution of chamomile tea and applying it lightly to the growing bed will help to prevent damping-off of young plants.
Hardening off and transplanting
When plants are 4" to 6" high, and the weather and moon phase permit, they are ready to be hardened-off and transplanted into the garden. Your plants will require a period of adjustment to outdoor conditions before putting them out.
Harden off your plants by moving them outside into a shady and wind protected area or try cold frame planting. Do this about two weeks before setting them out in the garden. Start by putting them out in the middle of the day for a few hours. Gradually increase the length of time that they are exposed to the outdoors and in a few days they can remain outside. Watch them carefully to see that they do not wilt and keep them sheltered from the wind.
Transplant during a cool time of dayTransplanting should be done on a cloudy day, early in the morning or in the evening when the sun is not shining directly on them. Water them with a weak organic fertilizer as soon as they are placed into the ground and keep the soil moist until they are established.
Left over water from boiling pasta or vegetables serves as a great starter solution for your seedlings and transplants. The minerals and trace elements contained in it will provide a gentle feeding for young plants.