You don’t always have to start with buying plants for your vegetable garden. There are many varieties of vegetables available from seed. By remembering to follow a few basic requirements you can plant seeds directly in the garden with good success. Seeds are usually not very expensive compared to buying plants and are available from many sources local and online. Because of their size and light weight they can be easily shipped and most times will arrive within a few days of ordering. Seeds also offer you so many more varieties to choose from than the plants you may find at the local garden shop.
All seeds have a certain temperature range that they sprout best at. The easiest way to find out the ideal temperature for the seed you want to grow is to read the seed packet or go back to seed catalogue you bought your seed from. When you are sowing seeds outdoors in the garden you may need to wait until these temperatures are within range before sowing your seed. An example of this would be squash seed that need a soil temperature of around 65 degrees to germinate. Planting too early in the spring when soils are cold might cause the seed to rot before the temperatures are favourable for them to sprout. Where I live in Georgia we have a resource through the University of Georgia that gives all types of weather information including soil temperature at 2 ” deep. That link is: http://www.georgiaweather.net/ You can also invest in a soil thermometer and check to see what the temperture is at 2″ deep at your garden site over several days.
Keeping your seeds moist while they are germinating is critical to good success. Little seeds that have just sprouted can die very easily if they don’t have enough moisture around them. Because they don’t have any deep roots to reach moist soil underneath them you will need to keep the top inch or two moist at all times while they are germinating. I do this several ways in my garden. I often use a cloth called row cover to lay over the top of the ground right after seeding to keep the sun and wind from drying out the soil too much. This cloth needs to be removed just as soon as you see the first little leaves peeking through the soil. In my square foot garden I have also used vermiculite to cover my seeds because the water holding capacity of vermiculite will help to keep the seeds moist between watering. Nothing beats just paying attention to newly planted seeds and giving them the water they need to stay damp.
Most seeds will germinate under the soil and only need light once the leaves are above ground. Some seed need a little light to germinate and again you can find this information in seed catalogs. Lettuce seed for example will germinate better if they are covered with soil only slightly so they can have some light to germinate.
Seeds need air and even in the soil there can be enough air for them. If your soil is not too heavy or you don’t plant them too deeply seeds will have enough air to germinate. A good rule of thumb is to only plant seeds two to three times as deep in the soil as the thickness of the seed. Since some seeds are very small this is not very deep at all.