Germinating seed indoors for later transplanting out of doors isn't hard. There are 4 factors that control seed germination. They are water, light, oxygen; and temperature.
The first step in seed germination is the seed absorbing water through the shell. Once this happens the embryo in the seed starts growing. Once that happens then if the seed is allowed to dry out your plant will die.
Some seeds need light to germinate and will not grow in the dark. Others need to germinate in the dark. Which is which is beyond the scope of this article but to make it easiest for you think of it like this. If your seed is one that would be planted under the surface then it germinates in the dark. Most vegetable seeds do this. A few like lettuces; and many herbs like verbina, germinate in the light and the usual method of planting them is to sprinkle their seeds over the surface of the soil and not cover them.
Respiration takes place in all seeds. The rate is of course much reduced in dormant seed; but in germinating seed is much higher. If the growing medium is too dense or impedes the flow of oxygen then the seed will die.
This is the final factor affecting germination of seed. All seed has a minimum and maximum temperature that it will germinate at. It also has a temperature that it works best at. The closer you get to this ideal temperature when germinating your seed. The higher the number of seeds that germinate and the sooner they germinate. This is the most important part thing when starting your own seed indoors or out. If you pay attention to these things you will have success.
The seed itself also has to meet certain conditions in order for it to germinate. It must have a living embryo. There must be enough food to nourish it as it germinates it; and it must have enough hormones to get the whole thing happening. These are things you cannot control. That is why it is important to test your seed for viability. Just take 10 seeds and try to start them a little early. Give them enough time to do their thing and count how many germinate. If less that 5, or 50%; germinate then you should probably consider new seed.
Seed can be started in many types of media but remember that seed starting media is usually sterile. That means that if you want to use left over soil from a previous year or just plain dirt from your garden that it is a good idea to sterilize it. This is easy to do. Just put your soil on a baking tray in a 250 degree oven for a half an hour or so. This will kill off any disease or pests that may have made your soil their home. A weak bleach solution used to rinse off your garden tools will
The containers that you use to start your plants off in can be anything. Plant starting kits, yogurt containers, foil pie plates. Anything you want but it must be clean and sterile and have good drainage. Those plastic containers from the deli, grocery store, or take out food with the clear top are really good and can be found in recycling bins everywhere whether you use these products or not. Free is always good and it is ecologically sound.
Remember to keep the germinating seed and young seedlings moist but not wet. Too moist leads to soil fungus and damping off disease. When your seed pokes out of the ground you can water with a very weak liquid fertilizer but remember to always water your plants from the bottom. Not through the top of your seed starting containers.
Seedlings need a lot of light. Most plants grow best with 16 hours a day. This means that you might want to keep your young seedlings under lights indoors till you are ready to set them outside. They will be ready to go when the soil temperature is warm enough and they have developed at least 2 sets of true leaves. These are not the first leaves that poke up through the
soil. Those are the seed, or false; leaves and are not enough to keep your plant growing out of doors on it's own.
Vegetable Seed Germination Data