Starting seeds of vegetables, annuals and even perennials and shrubs is a great way to wile away a dreary winter weekend. Once the seedlings have sprouted, you can count down the weeks to spring as you monitor their growth and tend to their needs. Starting seeds doesn't need to be complicated or costly. Here are a few tips to keep it simple and successful.
1. Shop your recycling bin rather than going out to buy seed-starting containers. Yogurt cups make great pots; clear, lidded food containers can become mini greenhouses. Wash everything with hot, soapy water first and make sure to poke drainage holes.
2. Keep the air moving. Set up a small fan to circulate air over the seedlings. This will stave off fungal diseases, which can quickly kill a crop, and strengthen the plants' stems.
3. Test old seeds. Before sowing seeds leftover from the past few years, roll several of them in a damp paper towel and set it in a warm spot. Check for germination every few days. If a good percentage sprouts, the packet is worth sowing.
4. Soak seeds to speed them up. You can soak just about any kind of seed in water for up to 24 hours then sow them, and this usually shortens the time it take them to sprout.
5. Skip transplanting to larger pots by starting with bigger pots in the first place. This holds true especially for quick growers and those that will be moved to the garden within a couple weeks, not months.