Starting your seeds in a seed tray will make it easier to keep them moist while they germinate. Tomatoes are especially suited to transplanting: when its time to go in the garden, plant them up to their necks, and they will send out new roots all along their stem! However, beans, melons, and cucumbers do not transplant well, so sow them directly in the garden.
1. Buy Seeds. Starting the season with new seeds, or seeds you saved from your own garden last year, is always a good idea. There is so much work to do in a garden, so why plant old seeds and then have to replant them if they don't germinate? Many professional growers use Johnny's Seeds. I've also had great results with Turtle Tree Seeds. Stick to varieties you know and love for the bulk of your order. Experiment with just a few. It's easy to go crazy and want to buy everything when browsing your catalogue. Resist! 2. Make a List of all the seeds you have. I like to organize my list into three categories: Leaf, Root, and Fruit. You can look up the best planting days for each category online and plant everything in that category on its proper day. Here's a calendar. 3. Decide what to plant now. It is also a good idea to check ideal germination temperatures. Some plants prefer heat to germinate, and others will germinate poorly in these temperatures. For those, it's a waste of time and effort to plant in this heat! Wait until it cools off. 4. Decide how much to plant Write down how many plants of each type you want. Plan on planting a few extras in case of casualties. Don't make the mistake of planting too much! It's better to take care of a few plants well, then to get behind on your garden work because its too much to take care of! We supplied a restaurant for the entire year last year from just three eggplant plants! 5. Prepare your seed trays We fill our seed trays with straight compost. Many growers mix with peat moss and other additives, but we have never had a problem. It's worth it to set up a planting table so you can stand and do your work, and that way they can have a place to live while they wait to go in the garden. Use an old yogurt container or a trowel to fill the trays with compost, then shake the tray to help it settle. Leave room at the top for more compost after you plant the seeds. Water thoroughly before you plant. You want the surface to look shiny for a few seconds. 6. Plant! Use your fingers to tamp the soil in each cell and make a little divot. Place one seed in each hole. If you're using poor quality seed plant two seeds and thin later. Sprinkle some more compost on top. 7. Mark your calendar Write down what you planted in your organizer. Skip ahead to the date three weeks from now, and write a reminder to plant that again. If you plant every three weeks you'll always be harvesting!
You can leave your trays in the shade until they form their first true leaves. They are unable to process sunlight before then, and it will cut down on your watering. I water my trays once a day, in the morning. If they look dry in the afternoon, always give them more water. Once they have their first true leaves they need partial shade. Too much shade will leave you with long, leggy, thin-stemmed plants, while too much sun could kill them if you forget to water (it happens!)