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Seed Starting Step-by-Step

The widest varieties of vegetables, herbs and flowers are only available as seeds. Follow these pointers to grow a variety of plants from seed.

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Photo: Image courtesy of Dubuque Arboretum; photo by Ronald Tigges, Digital Dubuque

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Starting plants from seed is an inexpensive way to garden, offering endless selection and flexible timing. Follow these steps to seed starting success.

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Photo: Courtesy of Renee's Garden

Step 1: Choose Your Seeds

Take your time and choose the best varieties from reputable sources. Some companies sell seed that may be several years old as long as it passes germination tests; others sell only fresh seed. The cheapest seed is not necessarily the best choice.

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Step 2: Review Planting Instructions

Seed packaging can answer a lot of questions such as when the plant grows best in particular parts of the country, proper spacing when sown directly in the garden and whether or not to sow indoors. Your needs may require adjustments to the recommendations but you have a starting point. Be aware that not following the seed company's directions will probably void any warranty they may offer.

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Step 3: Soak the Seeds Overnight

Whether you are sowing indoors or directly into the garden, pre-soaking the seeds can shorten the germination period by several days. This process works for all but the tiniest seeds. Simply place the seeds in a small bowl and cover them with warm water. Allow them to soak for 12-24 hours. Drain the water and blot the seeds on a towel just prior to sowing.

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