I placed growing medium (a mixture of spaghnum peat moss, vermiculite, and compost) in the seed flats, watered the medium liberally, then planted the seeds about a 1/4″ deep. Then I gently misted the top of the medium, labeled each flat carefully (one of the biggest challenges is remembering where what is planted), and then placed a sheet of tin foil over the top of the flat. Darkness and warmth are what the seeds need in order to germinate. I placed the flats directly on top of an electric warming mat to encourage germination, and the lights won’t get turned on until the little seed leaves pop out of the growing medium.
Upon germination, which should take from about 5-12 days, I’ll take off the tin foil cover, turn off the warming mat, and the lights will kick in, on a timer which provides for about 19 hours of light and the remainder of darkness.
At that point, I’ll also need some fine, durable mesh/grating to place over the flats, because I’ve learned through sad and painful experience that mice will invade the house to eat many of the little seedling leaves, especially the tomato and eggplant. If left unprotected, my little seedlings can be munched away to nothing, which is devastating!
Some time in April, depending on when the ground is fully thawed, I’ll plant a big batch of cool-weather crops. Most of these don’t like to be transplanted, so starting indoors isn’t feasible. Peas, spinach, lettuce, radishes, arugula, cauliflower, carrots, beets, swiss chard.Around May 1, I’ll start another round of seedlings inside, including cucumbers, zucchini, and several types of basil.
And around Memorial Day, after the last frost, everything shifts to the outdoors. I’ll transplant the indoor seedlings out into the warm soil, but only after a couple of weeks of “hardening off,” in which I take the plants outdoors for gradually increasing periods of time, so they can accustom themselves slowly to the exterior weather conditions. And I’ll also direct seed turnip and bean seeds into the ground.
This year, I’ve decided to use animal compost in my raised beds, in addition to the kitchen compost I normally use. I think my soil needs something to perk it up and give it some new life and zest this season.