As promised I dug out (literally... a snow pile in front of the shed door!) and gathered supplies last weekend. It never ceases to amaze me at how few supplies are needed to start flowers & veggies in your own home! And honestly it can be done pretty inexpensively! All you truly need is seed, soil, a container, water, & light! Now, let's break down each of these items.
1) seed - My plant list includes a lot of plants that need* or can to be started indoors. For those plants that need to be started indoors, we just do not have a long enough growing season to get a reasonable harvest or any harvest at all. For the remaining plants on my list, I can have an earlier harvest by starting them a week or two earlier indoors... many of these plants do not handle transplanting very well so I always straight seed a few of them as well if I can't manage a harvest season without them. In a best case scenario, I get a bit longer season by starting a few indoors. :)
peppers (hot & bell)*
2) soil -If you investigate the seed starting supplies in the stores you will find bagged soil specifically for starting seeds. It has been sterilized and does not have any fertilizer in it. The very first year I started my own plants I used whatever potting soil I already had in the house and had no real problem. I had a few weeds start along with my veggies, but they were easily disposed of with a fingernail clippers. I have since used seedling soil just because it is designed to give the seedlings the best advantage and it is worth it to me, but if your budget is tight any soil with high organic matter content will work. I do not recommend straight garden soil as it can be become hard & impermeable for seedlings without the other forces of nature acting on it.
3) container -Again, in the stores you will find all kinds of options for containers from biodegradable peat pots to plastic cells and flats. It can be really overwhelming looking at all the options, but truth be told you need very little if any of it at all! ANY container can be used and a search of your home will yield lots of options. Don't forget to use your friends & family for resources for pots as well! If you just let people know what you are looking for, you will soon find your stock of containers overflowing! A few years back I let some friends know that I was looking for plastic containers (yogurt/sour cream/cottage cheese style). I still have a huge stockpile! :)
Here is a list of options to get you started: paper egg cartons
paper milk cartons & jugs
plastic yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese containers
strawberry/raspberry/blueberry clam shell style containers
I've even seen illustrations of homemade newspaper mache style containers!
4) water - Just plain old ordinary tap water is perfect. You might consider finding a water bottle to mist the seedlings, but that is it!
5) light - This is where I have invested some money over the years, but I started out by placing my seedlings by windows and letting them gather what sunlight they could. I moved my seedlings between our east and west facing windows each day and ended up with some decent looking plants. They were a little "leggy" (meaning taller than they should of been for lack of adequate light) by May, but they transplanted & produced a harvest just fine. Seedlings need a broad spectrum light source to survive and that includes natural sunlight, "grow" lights & even florescent lights. I have a good friend who starts her seedlings on her kitchen counter under the florescent under-cabinet lights. A couple of years ago I invested in two 18 inch grow lights that I attached to my plant stand. I place the stand in front of my west windows & use a combination of natural light & "synthetic" light from the grow lights. This is the best solution I have found for me, but analyze how much natural light you have before you make any big investments.
So there you have it, the basics for starting seedlings indoors are seeds, soil, a container, water & light. Now it is time to gather your supplies because we are only one week out from planting season! :)