Starting from seed isn't very hard or time consuming. If you are really pressed for time then buy your plants from the garden center. Starting from seed is pretty much like planting seeds outside when it is warm. There are so many more varieties to choose from if you start from seed. For lighting, a cheap florescent shop light is all you need, unless you have a very sunny window that gets sun all day long. A plastic flat that you can get at Meijer or Walmart or even leftover from the bedding plants you purchased last year. A bag of soil less seed starting mix made from Peat Moss and usually Perlite. I get my mix from Meijer for a few dollars a bag, and of course your seeds. It will usually take eight weeks or so for the plants to grow to transplanting size. I don't start warm season plants like tomatoes or peppers until the last of February or first week of March. I wouldn't plant tomatoes or peppers until the first of May. You can plant earlier in April, but if there is a cold snap then those plants will not be any farther ahead of the ones planted in may. The colder temps slow down tomatoes and peppers. Back to seed starting. Fill your flat with the soil less mix and dampen with water. I use a pencil to make three furrows length wise across the flat. Space your seeds fairly close,cover lightly with mix then water until good and moist. Cover the flat with plastic wrap to hold in the moisture and place in a warm location. Keep a close watch and when the seeds sprout remove the plastic wrap and place under the shop light. With cool florescent bulbs the lights can almost touch the top of the plants. the lights should be left on for at least sixteen to eighteen hours a day because the light intensity is much less than natural light. I leave my lights on all the time so I don't have to keep turning them off and on. Make sure the soil is kept moist. When the plants have produced their first true leaves, you can fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer like Miracle Grow. I grow my plants organically so I use liquid Sea weed. When the plants are a few inches tall you can transplant to individual containers, like styrofoam or plastic cups with a drainage hole in the bottom. You can leave the plants in the original flat, just be careful when separating them to plant outside. Your plants will need to be hardened off outside for about a week before planting in the garden. Put them outside in a fairly shaded area, the plants will sunburn if in direct sunlight until they are acclimated. The leaves will turn whit when they are sunburned. I think it is more rewarding to start from seed, plus the choices of varieties are so great. Good luck and good gardening to you.
February 9, 2014