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When and how do I start vegetable seedlings indoors?
With proper care and timing you can raise healthy vegetable plants indoors. Start cole crops such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, bok choy and lettuce about February 15; tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant March 15 and cucumbers, squash, and melons April 15. Be sure and use a soilless seed starter mix available for this purpose to reduce the chances of your seedlings damping off.
Seeds can be started in a variety of containers, but a convenient way is to purchase an inexpensive flat with 12-6 pack containers and a plastic cover which can be used for several years.
To plant the seeds, fill the 6 pack with the soilless mixture and firm down. Sow 2 or 3 seeds per cell and lightly cover the seeds with vermiculite or milled sphagnum moss. Don't cover seeds too deeply. For most plants, the proper planting depth is about twice the seed diameter. After planting, place the container in a shallow pan of water until the planting mix is saturated. Remove from the water and place in the flat, cover with the plastic cover. If other containers are used, cover with plastic or glass to retain the moisture. No additional watering will usually be required until the seeds germinate.
Place in a warm location about 75 degrees F. until seedlings emerge. As soon as plants appear remove the plastic cover and move to a cooler spot about 65-70 degrees, where there is plenty of light. A South window sill is a good place. Water sparingly to keep plants from wilting. Do not overwater. When the second set of leaves appear the seedlings should be thinned to one plant per cell. The extra plants may be transplanted to other containers. Water and fertilize regularly until the plants are set out of doors.