Very small seeds.
Use a seeding flat or if you can find one a plug tray. A plug tray is a seeding tray with tiny square cells all across so you can seed in each individual cell. The advantage of this method is that seeds grown in their own individual cells which makes transplanting very easy. Seedlings pop right out of the tray the roots don't get tangled in the seedlings next to them. Plug trays can often be purchased on ebay. For very find seeds a tray with 288 cells works very well.
Fill your seeding container with fine seeding mix and press down firmly. Water the flat well and let it drain.
The best way to evenly distribute fine seed it is by using an old pepper shaker. Take a small portion of dry fine sand or loam - do not use beach sand unless you wash and dry it well first as the salt in the sand can affect the seedlings. Pick a sand or loam that is a different color from the seeding mix that you have chosen.
Mix the seeds with a portion of the sand and place in the pepper shaker. Shake well to ensure an even distribution of the seed throughout the sand. Then shake the mixture out across the tray. The sand will ensure a more even distribution and you can see where you have shaken by the sand color.
Lightly cover the seed with more mix. The best way to do this is using a kitchen sieve (don't take the one from the kitchen though find a different one) and shake some seeding mix all across the seeding flat.
Medium and large seeds.
Start seeds in a good seed starting compost. Do not use ordinary potting soil as some of the pieces are too large. If you can find nothing else use a kitchen sieve to strain out the larger particles and use only the finer pieces of the potting soil. (The rest can be used just as well for larger plants and potting on).
Plant in either a flat, large plug tray or separate seeds into individual cell pots. Large seeds do much better in individual pots as they tend to grow quickly and it reduces potting on time. We recommend individual pots rather than trays of connected pots since individual pots can be spaced apart as the plant grows while those molded together cannot. This allows for more custom care from each plant, and if you have some pots that fail, or grow faster than others these can be separated out without affecting the rest of the plants. It also makes small plants easier to handle as they grow.
Fill the seeding flat or cell pots with starting compost and press down to firm. Leave only about a quarter inch at the top of cell pots. Do not fill flats to the top of the tray. Water the compost in well and let it drain.
If using a flat it is still better to plant the seeds in rows rather than a random scattering as it makes transplanting later much easier. You can make this task easy by using a stiff piece of paper 8x 11" paper and fold in half the long way (11"). Open up to form a V and shake the seeds into the V of the paper. With a little gentle shaking the seeds will line up along the bottom of the paper and you can gently tap them out one at a time from one end into the seeding medium. Individual seeds can also be moved around using tweezers.
Using a kitchen sieve shake a fine layer of potting mix over the top of the seeds just enough to cover them. Do not add too much seeds do not like to be deep in the mix.
Water with a misting spray bottle or the mist setting on a hose nozzle. Don't try to use a watering can this is far to harsh for small seeds. Place the tray in a well lit area. A sunny windowsill or table placed in a south facing window is ideal. If you want to use artificial light make sure the lights are no more than six inches above the level of the soil. Do not keep plants enclosed in plastic as this encourages damping off disease and your seedlings will die. Mist seeds daily to keep moist never let the seed trays or pots dry out.
Once the seedling have emerged and began to grow there second pair of leaves you can add a liquid fertilizer to your daily spraying. At this time trays may need to be sprayed several times per day to ensure they don't dry out. As the seedlings grow you can use a harsher form of watering, but take care not to wash the delicate plants out of the trays.
Place seed trays or pots in a light area, near a window or under a grow light. If using a light make sure the light is no more than 8 inches above the tray. Once the seedlings have germinated you can begin to raise the light up.
Once seedlings have their first pair of true leaves, (not the first leaves that emerge, but the second pair, the first pair will usually look a lot different to the rest of the leaves the plant produces.) The plants may be potted on. For smaller seedlings it is usually better to wait until the plants have several pairs of leaves and look strong enough to handle. Moving seedlings when they are too small will stress them and they will often die. Its better to let them get bigger first to ensure good survival rates.
Move seedlings into individual pots and allow them to grow on to larger plants before planting outside. The better start you can give them before tossing them out into the world the stronger plant you will have. Keep plants in the light and if possible near a gentle breeze where the airflow will strengthen the stems and prevent any molds from growing. Don't place seedlings in the garden until they are large enough to fend for themselves.
Never take seedlings directly from indoor to their positions in the garden. First move the plants to a sheltered shaded location where they can become acclimatized to the outside. Never put them in full sun. A plant that has been inside has not built up resistance to the sun and it will burn just like your skin would. Leave plant tray in the shade for a few days, watering daily, them move to an place where they will get morning and/or afternoon sun. Leave plants here for at least 2-3 days before finally transplanting to their chosen location. Transplanting directly from the house will cause many plants to die of sunburn. Take 1-2 weeks to acclimatize plants first.
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