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Many different types of containers from commercial trays and inserts to yogurt cups are suitable for seed starting provided they have drainage holes. Used containers must be sterilized by rinsing them in a solution of one part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water.
Always start with a sterile germinating mix. Do not use garden soil, it can harbor disease organisms. Moisten mix with room temperature water prior to filling containers. Fill containers and gently tamp soil mix down. As a rule of thumb, plant seeds at a depth 2-3 times their diameter.
Very fine seeds such as petunia or begonia should be sown on the surface. Moisten the surface after planting with a fine mist. Large-seeded vegetables that resent transplanting, such as cucumber, cantaloupe and watermelon should be planted directly into peat pots.
Some seeds have specific light or dark requirements for germination. Sow seeds that require light such as dill, lettuce and impatiens on top of the soil. Cover seeds of cabbage, cauliflower, parsley and spinach for germination.
Cover containers with clear plastic bags and place in a warm location for germination. Do not place covered containers in direct sunlight. Check daily for germination.
Scarification is nicking or roughing up a hard seed coat with sandpaper to enable the germination shoot to emerge. Seeds that benefit include lupine, moonflower and morning glory.
Stratification mimics the cold/moist condition of winter. Place seeds
between layers of moist soil mix, cover and refrigerate for several weeks. Purple coneflower, columbine and violas benefit from this process.
Don’t plant seeds too soon. Check seed packages for proper timing. The last frost date for central Indiana is May 10.