Even for seasoned gardeners seed starting can be tricky at times. If you don't have a professional setup with lighted benches and misters that keep your seeds in the ideal conditions, and the time to baby sit your seedlings, growing seedlings in stages can simplify your life as a gardener. It offers an easy and efficient way to grow your own seedlings.
1. Incubator Stage: Sow seeds generously in a 4" pot or a 12 oz paper cup with holes punched on the bottom. Keep the container in a sunny spot like a south facing window. Keep it moist until germination occurs. If you have any warming device such as a seed starting mat feel free to use it.
2. Small Seedling Stage: When the seedlings grow a little taller and when the 3rd set of leaves are just begin to emerge, transplant them to larger containers. I use 2" pots. At this point, eliminate all the weak seedlings, keep only the healthy and strong ones. Dump the entire container with all the seedlings on a flat surface. Pick out each seedling carefully as not to damage their roots, pot them up in 2" pots. Avoid trying to transplant them too early. If the seedlings are too young, they may not survive the transplanting. Allow the seedlings to grow and fill up the 2" containers. In some cases, this will be adequate for the seedlings to move out to the garden (temperature permitting), for others they will need to be moved to larger pots.
3. Large Seedling Stage: Move the seedlings from the 2" pots to 4" pots will give them more growing space. Usually this is all you need to do before transplanting them to the garden. You can regulate the growth by exposing the seedlings to the right temperature condition. If they are growing too fast, leave them outside. Just be sure to bring them in when the temperature gets too low. This will also harden them off so they will be ready to be transplanted into the garden. Now just wait for the nice weather to arrive so you can plant them... Meanwhile, dream up some delicious recipes and wait for the veggies to get ready.