Having your own garden is such a wonderful feeling. To grow your own food and know where it came from, gives you a sense of accomplishment and saves you a lot of money and trips to the grocery store. Plus it's a lot of fun!
Lets first start with what you will need:
1) Seeds- I buy mine from tractor supply, Walmart, almost every store sells them. I've ordered certain rare variety seeds online too such as Bakers Seed Company. I normally buy all of my vegetable seeds and herbs from tractor supply since good quality seeds will have fewer diseases later on in your garden than a cheaper seed from the dollar store. The brand does help with making this shopping easier so try and stick to the Burpee brand. Flowers I buy from the dollar tree and Walmart. Those normally do fine and if they don't it's not a big loss for me since I'm usually more excited to grow food than beauty. The best time to buy seeds is at the end of the planting season. They are dirt cheap and you can use them next year and they last usually up to 2 years or longer depending on how you stored them.
2) Soil- I buy miracle grow potting soil for my seedlings. Later on when I re-pot them if I'm going to grow them in a container for good, I will switch them to miracle grow low moisture soil to prevent mold growth in your soil when you water them ( I tend to be an over waterer as opposed to an under waterer). Buy a big bag, that way if there is leftover, next year you have some. Walmart I've found has the best price for this.
3) Containers- you can use anything as a container to start seeds, as long as it has proper drainage and is clean, you will be good. I save my yogurt cups and drill a hole in the bottoms. You can use egg cartons to start seeds and then pop the little seed pockets into the ground or re pot them since the egg carton is biodegradable. You can use saved and washed cans with holes drilled in the bottom too. I've also used saved washed milk jugs cut in half as pots and they work well if you save the chopped top and use it as a little greenhouse for the seedling. This part of gardening allows you to be frugal and creative with ways to start your seeds :).
4) Labels- I use masking tape or you can use popsicle sticks or just write what is in the pot on the side of the container and next year, simply cross it off.
5) Water Tray- I use all sorts of things to catch water from my seedling pots such as: large tops from Tupperware, cardboard boxes lined with plastic wrap, egg carton tops lined with plastic, or anything plastic that has a lip to it to prevent run off.
6) Plastic Wrap- this is used to cover the tops of each seedling container to act as a little greenhouse for your plants.
Preparing For Your Garden:
A lot of thought should go into planning for your garden. Thoughts like; Do I want a surplus of squash this year? Or just enough to feed my family? Do I have the space for everything I want to plant? Will some of my plants be in containers or in the ground? Will I have a raised bed garden? Do I have a sunny place to put them outside? How will I keep up on the weeding?
But don't despair! Just keep a few things in mind to help you plan, such as:
This is what my area looks like when preparing my seeds.
Now that you have all the items and have planned for your garden, now begins the prep work of indoor seed starting.
Step 1: Get out all of your ready made supplies and begin filling your containers with soil. Fill containers all the way up, leaving about half an inch head space.
Step 2: Set up your containers on their water pan catchers.
Step 3: Read each seed packet and place seeds in containers according to the package directions. I like to place at least 2 seeds in a container in case one of the seeds is a dud and doesn't grow.
Step 4: Label your container after each seed has been planted. Keep track of your inventory by keeping a list of everything you have planted along with the quantity of each.
Step 5: Once all of your seeds have been planted, you can now cover each container with plastic wrap to create a green house effect.
Step 6: Place your containers in a semi warm, dark place until the seedlings appear. Once they appear, you can move your plants to a warm, sunny location to promote growth.
Note: As time goes on, your plants will outgrow their "green house" and you can remove the plastic.
Things to remember when starting seeds:
Transplanting Basics : When your plants have out grown their container, you can transplant them into a larger pot, or outside depending on the time of year and after the threat of frost has diminished. I usually transplant my outgrown seedlings to larger containers if they are going to stay in the containers that I plant them in permanently, or if they are tomatoes.
Preparing Your Plants For Outside: If you just place your plants outside and expect them to just "make it", you may be sadly disappointed that it's not that easy. In order for your plants to successfully live outside, you need to gradually have them be outside for short periods of time, bring them all in, and then do it again the next day for an extra hour or so. This sometimes takes at least a week before they can be hardy and strong enough to survive living outside permanently, but it does take time and patience.