Fill your containers with moistened seed-starting mix.
Here's a hint: Many peat-based seed-starting mixes repel water when they dry out completely. Moisten the mix by putting some in a container or bag with a small amount of warm water and stirring it well.
Sow seeds by scattering them evenly over the surface of the seed-starting mix.
Here's a hint: If you have really small seeds that are difficult to sow evenly, mix them in a saltshaker filled with sand. Mix them up and shake the seeds out with the sand.
Note: Some types of seeds need to be covered by seed-starting mix to sprout. Others will not sprout if they're covered up. Check to see if your seeds have any special requirements when you sow them.
Use plant labels in your containers after you've sown the seed. This will help you keep track of what your plants are as they begin to grow.
Most seeds sprout best in a warm, humid environment. So loosely cover your containers with clear plastic wrap or a clear plastic cover to help hold humidity.
Keep your containers out of direct sun, otherwise too much heat may build up and bake your seeds. Also: Don't wrap the plastic cover too tightly; your seedlings need fresh air, otherwise they'll rot.
As seedlings develop their first set of true leaves (after the initial seed leaves), the containers will become crowded, and you'll need to thin them. It's hard to get rid of healthy plants, but if you let the crowding continue, all the plants will suffer and die.
Keep the largest, healthiest seedlings, and pull out unwanted plants or cut off their stems at soil level, leaving at least an inch of space between the remaining seedlings. As the survivors grow and outdoor temperatures reach the 50s and above, the seedlings are ready to harden off (get tough) by being set in a protected area outdoors, such as a garage or porch. After a day or two, they're ready for the garden.
Continued on page 4: How to Start Seeds Outdoors