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by Carole Schwalm A variety of seeds organized in bowls and laid out in a market stand.

Number one on list of seed basics: Your seeds need to be viable. That said, they also need the right conditions to grow: light, oxygen, temperature and water.

Light: Seeds need at least 15 hours a day of light. A south-facing window is best, but in lieu of that, you can use grow lights. Most seed packets let you know whether you should start the seeds in darker conditions.

Oxygen: Besides nice, fresh air, the soil should to be loose. Garden soil can be too heavy. A seed-starting soil fills the requirement, plus it is drains well. When planting, cover seeds lightly. Plant 2-4 times the minimum diameter of the seed.

Vegetable plants growing from a seedling tray laying in the sun. Water: Another key factor, one that also requires containers with drainage holes. Moisten the soil thoroughly before you plant, then spray the dirt with a fine mist afterward. Keep soil moist, not overly wet – avoid letting the soil dry out.

Temperature: 50° F is a minimum and 96° F is a maximum for starting seeds. Hardening the small plants is important with early spring crops. They’ve been growing in the warm temperatures, and it is colder outside. This means gradually decreasing the temps and reducing the water, and this thickens the cell walls. Start hardening at least two weeks before planting outside. Protect them during windy days, and if temps are below 45° F.

Cooler temperature crops are broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. You may find seedlings already in your garden center. They can survive frosts. Tomatoes, although in some stores shouldn’t go outside until all danger of frost is past.

Share your garden seedlings experience or if you'd like more information.