How To: Start seeds for planting

Start seeds for planting

Learn how to start seeds for planting. Start your own seeds to save money, grow different plant varieties, and extend your growing season.

Step 1. Prepare pots or flats

Wash the pots and flats in warm soapy water. Rinse them thoroughly and drain.

To kill fungi and bacteria in previously used pots, soak them for 30 minutes in a solution of 10 parts water to 1 part bleach, then rinse and drain.

Step 2. Prepare seed starting mix

Purchase seed starting soil from a local nursery, or mix your own.

Step 3. Moisten seed starting mix

Add water to your soil mix, but only enough to lightly moisten it.

Do not overwater. Waterlogged soil can cause rot and prevent germination.

Step 4. Plant seeds

Plant your seeds according to the depth and spacing instructions on the seed packet, and then lightly cover them with soil.

Step 5. Cover pots

Cover the pots with plastic sheets, wrap, or bags to create a greenhouse effect and keep moisture in the soil.

Step 6. Set in warm location

Set the pots in a warm location, such as a water heater top, refrigerator top, or sunny window.

Step 7. Remove covers after germination

Remove the plastic covers once the seeds begin to sprout.

After germination, place the pots in a tray, and add water to the tray. Watering from the bottom prevents overwatering and helps thwart a kind of fungus that can kill seedlings.

Step 8. Provide light

Place the germinated seeds in or near a sunny window. To encourage straight growth and prevent a thin, weak stem, place the new sprouts directly under a light source, such as a fluorescent light.

Step 9. Harden-off plants

When your plants have several sets of leaves, and the weather is warm enough, set the plants outside for increasing lengths of time.

Step 10. Plant your garden!

You're ready to transfer those flowers and vegetables you worked so hard to cultivate to the garden.

FACT: 10,000-year-old seeds discovered in frozen soil in Canada

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