After the seed catalogues have been dog-eared and the seed packets bought, it's time to get serious about planting.

Some seeds can be sown directly into the garden, such as peas, sweet corn, kale, carrots, and leeks. In areas where the growing season is relatively short,  seeds can be started indoors. Here are several suggestions to get started:

Use a special, light planting medium. Peat pots can be used to start the seeds and covered  loosely with clear plastic film until they begin to sprout. The pots can later be planted into the garden without disturbing the tender roots.

A light misting or adding water to the bottom of the tray that the pots rest in, will keep the seedlings moist. Don't let them get soggy, as that may result in a fungal growth known as "damping off".

Fluorescent lights, grow lights, or placing in a window will give your new plants the light that they'll need. If placed by a window, turn the containers to encourage straight growth.

Special pads for extra warmth can be used to help with germination. They can be placed under the trays and removed after the seedlings have sprouted. Peppers have been known to do well on top of the refrigerator, but be careful to not let them dry out.

Before being transplanted into the garden, your plants should be "hardened off" for a couple of weeks. To do that, place your new plants outdoors several hours each day, so that they acclimate to the temperature and the air circulation.

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