Why to Grow?: You will save money on expensive plant-food and avoid harmful chemicals. Having greenery in your life and the gardening hobby is de-stressing and mood boosting. Fresh plants last longer, too.
Containers: You can use anything as long as it has drainage and it's at least 2-3 inches deep to accommodate growing roots. (Ideas here.)
Seeds: Avoid hybrid (sterile, artificial) seeds, go organic. I love to try heirloom varieties, seeds with natural variety through cross-breeding that have been passed down in families from centuries. Consider local and online seed-swaps.
Storage: Like Highlander characters or the obnoxious longevity of your least favorite pop act, your seeds are IMMORTAL! We've grown seeds found in Egyptian tombs. The trick is to keep them bone dry. Cooling them will put them in "hibernation" mode. Store seeds in a plastic container in your fridge. Add a bowl of dry milk or a moisture-removing gel pack to the container to wick away moisture.
Growing Medium: The best seed starting mix is one part of each of the following: (1) sphagnum moss or coir (acidic), (2) vermiculite (heated mica rocks, looks like tiny balls of old paper, neutral PH), and (3) perlite (crushed lava, heated until it "pops" into white "kernels", you see it in most potting soil, it looks like Styrofoam. Nuetral PH). You can buy an organic already started mix or mix your own.
Sanitize: Make sure to wash your seed-starting containers with warm water and hydrogen peroxide mix (a splash of peroxide will do) or natural castile soap (like Dr. Bronner's) mixture.
Timing: The back of your seed pack will tell you when your plant will be ready to go outdoors. Look up your area's calculated last frost. Start your seed a few weeks back accordingly. For example, sunflowers and cucumbers need 3-4 weeks before going into the garden, some veggies like celery need a full 12 weeks.
Let's Get Plantin': Moisten your seed starting mix until its damp, but not soaking. To promote growth, use warm (never steaming!) water right before placing the seeds in. Fill your containers and follow the seed packets instructions for planting depth. I'm trying a new method this year, putting the seeds in the hole without covering them back up! It's a master gardener trick that sounds counterintuitive but is said to speed up germination time.
LABEL! Super important because seedlings, like the 90s crop of boy bands, look identical. (They have seed leaves they later shed for leaves true to their type. The boy bands have no excuse.)
Temp: Keep your seeds warm to help speed up growing and germination. A grow-light set-up is preferable but for those of us that can't do this, put your seedlings in a warm sunny window, atop the warm fridge or outside in the garden if it's not too cold in your area.
Watering: Water when the soil is dry again, the soil should be moist, never soggy. If you have chlorine in your tap water leave the lid off a jar or bucket of water overnight and it will evaporate. Using a turkey baster is an inexpensive, precise way to water seedlings.
Easier Watering: A more fool-proof way to water (it's easy to drown the seeds!) is to place the whole container is a shallow pan of water and let the dirt soak up the water. Remove when the top of the soil is moist.
I'll follow-up in the future with transplanting and more detailed gardening tips, like keeping pests away from your precious plant-children! Get thee to a garden center, I challenge you to at least try planting one frequently-used vegetable, herb, or green. (A good way to go for a beginner.) If you're new to this, new experiences keep you sharp. If you're a veteran plant killer, know that every single gardener has killed a plant. Or two. Or twenty. That's Nature. It's completely unpredictable, yet incredibly rewarding. There's nothing like picking your own fresh herbs and veggies to use. I'm excited to make healing products for my line and my friends/family with home-grown herbs.
Growing anything this year? Did I leave anything out? I went back and deleted some of the details to save for future posts. Too much data-dump! Of course if you have any questions now or along the way, leave 'em in the comments and I'll have the answer for you.