Ready to grow? Just add water. Water softens the seed coat and allows the food source stored within to nourish the emerging seedling. You must keep your seed-starting medium moist -- but not soggy -- until sprouts appear. Small containers dry out quickly, so check them often.
Seeds vary in the amount of light they need to germinate. Some must have lots of light, so they should not be covered with soil when sown. Others do best with some light, requiring just a thin covering of soil. Still other seeds germinate best in darkness and should be covered with 1/4 inch of fine soil, firmed down. Check the recommendations on the seed packages.
After germination, light is essential for all seedlings, and it can be natural or artificial. If you have sunny windows in your home, take full advantage of them. You'll need to supplement sunlight with artificial light. Seedlings require 12 to 16 hours of light per day.
Temperature needs of seeds are different during and after germination. During germination, the warmer the soil, the better. The recommended soil temperature range for most seeds started indoors is 75˚to 90˚F.
If room temperature is about 70˚F, you may need to place containers in a warm spot, such as near a kitchen stove, heat vent, or on top of the refrigerator. After the seedlings are up, 60˚ to 70˚F is fine.
Continued on page 3: How to Start Seeds Indoors