Answer: Here are some general seed starting instructions.
Plant seeds in barely damp soilless mix. Water lightly to settle the soil. Cover the pot with clear plastic wrap (to maintain humidity) and set in a warm, bright location out of direct sun. (Direct sun would overheat the closed container.)
Watch for germination and remove cover as soon as seeds sprout. Place seedlings under fluorescent lighting (one warm color bulb and one cool color bulb in a shop fixture is fine) with the bulbs just an inch or two above the foliage. Set the timer for 16 hours a day. A good room temperature would be about 65 degrees.
When the seedlings grow "true" leaves, transplant into small individual pots and begin fertilizing with a water soluble fertilizer at a very dilute strength, applied only to the soil, not to the leaves.
In terms of when to plant, take care not to start too early. It is difficult to produce top quality transplants at home, so the less time they are under our imperfect indoor conditions the better. Most seed packets give a range of weeks such as 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost, and you can use this as a guide. (Plants with no time indicated can usually be direct sown in the garden with good results -- for example, sweet peas and sunflowers.)
Finally, remember to take time to gradually condition or harden off your plants before transplanting them into the "harsh sun and wind of real life" in the garden.
If you do not know your frost date, ask your county extension or a neighbor who gardens in a big way.
Have fun with your seeds!
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