If you live in a cold climate, sometimes starting plants indoors is a good option, particularly for vegetables like tomatoes. You should start your indoor plants in a sterile, soil-free growing medium with excellent water retention (see Growing Mediums).
Indoor planting can be a little tricky. Without the right amount of light, plants become “leggy” – long and thin – which weakens them for life. Try growing them on a sunny window-sill or moving them outside as soon as they have sprouted if temperatures in your area are mild. Indoor plants are also more susceptible to “damping off,” a fungal infection that causes young plants to droop. Still, it is worth the effort to get a jump on the growing season.
Once the plants are large enough and the temperature is warm enough to consider moving them outdoors, you should start the process of “hardening off.” This means that for about two weeks before transplanting outside, you take the seedlings outdoors and put them in the sun for an hour or so. Increase the length of time the plants spend outdoors until you are ready to transplant them.
When you transplant, be very gentle with the plants to prevent transplant shock. Start by water the seedlings and the container they will be transplanted into. Preserve as much of the soil surrounding the root ball as possible, and do not bury the plants deeper than they were originally. Handle the plants only by the leaves and not by the stem.
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