Starting Seeds Indoors
You can easily grow annual flowers and vegetables as well as biennials and perennials from seed. The procedure is as hi-tech or inexpensive as you want.
Plant species vary considerable in the time required for germination of seed and subsequent development. Determine when to sow the seed by consulting the seed packet and deciding when it is safe to plant the seedlings outdoors and then calculate how large you want the plant when it is planted. Contact a Cornell Cooperative Extension horticulturist for help in deciding when to sow different seeds.
Begin by using a sterile, artificial growing mix. This is very important because there are several fungi that are referred to as 'dampening-off' diseases that invade the succulent, young stems and cause their death. Moisten the mix uniformly before adding it to the plant containers. Shallow wooden boxes, greenhouse flats, plastic trays, or peat packs are suitable containers. Use peat pots for such plants as vine crops or other plants that cannot tolerate root disturbance.
Fill the container with two to four inches of moistened mix and firm down. Make a furrow, 1/4" to 1/2" deep, depending on the size of the seed. Distribute the seeds carefully, without crowding them into the furrow. Gently cover the seeds with a layer of fine vermiculite or some of the mix. Do not cover fine seeds such as petunia, snapdragon and begonia.
Label each group of seeds before going to a new variety or crop. After a container is seeded, sprinkle or mist with water to make sure the entire mix is damp. Maintain adequate moisture during the germination and growing period, but do not keep the mix saturated as the seed and roots do require air. During the germination period you can place small containers in a plastic bag or for larger containers, a clear plastic cover reduces moisture loss. Remove this covering when the plants start to emerge.
Germination and growing temperatures of 65 degrees F at night and 70-75 degrees F during the day are suggested. Light is not required until the first plants emerge. After germination provide as much sunlight as possible. If a good exposure is not available, supplemental light may help by placing fluorescent tubes 8 to 10 inches above the plants for 12 to 16 hours each day. Allow the surface of the mix to dry, but be sure the mix is adequately moist beneath the surface.
If you plan to transplant the seedling to another container, wait until it has two sets of true leaves. Otherwise, thin the emerging seedlings to prevent overcrowding in their original container.
If the plants become yellowish in color, it means they need fertilizer. Use a water soluble fertilizer such as Rapid-Gro, Miracle-Gro, or Peters. If the plants become tall and spindly, they need more light.