Seed Starting - Start with good seed: Territorial, Johnny Select, Burpee to name a few. They will send you a free catalogue if you ask.
Dollar Tree has surprisingly good seed, very good germination rate and real cheap!
Try to avoid buying seed that has been kept in a warm store for months!!
Keep your seed fresh by putting in a clean jar, with a lid, in the back of the fridge.
How deep to plant your seeds - is usually written on the back of the packet. Seeds that could be wind-sown won't need to be covered at all.
Containers to use: Need to be able to hold at least 1/2 Cup of potting soil.
You can use many different things. I usually use traditional plastic 6packs or various plastic leftover food containers.
Your containers need a drainage hole that you can make easily with a sharp screw and battery powered screwdriver.
I avoid cardboard containers because they generally become weakened by several weeks of being wet and often fall apart.
To plant: Use good quality potting soil to start seedlings, (Miracle-Gro for example) or finished compost with creepy crawlies and large pieces and rocks removed. You can pre-moisten soil before filling containers or water before and after placing seed in soil.
Read the back of the seed packet to determine the earliest date this variety can be planted in your area and how deep. They can be kept inside for at least 2 weeks.
Fill your containers to the top, then press down gently and top-off again.
Use something like a shop-stick to make a hole for each seed in the center of each cell of container at the proper depth. Tiny seed is often just sprinkled on top. Large containers may have room for starting several seeds.
You can cover your seeds with a fine layer of Vermiculite if you wish, to keep in moisture.
Other options are: A clear dome (saved from a store bought sheet cake) or a large piece of saran-wrap.
Don't forget to water gently before covering.
Then place on top of your refrigerator, for warmth or in a sunny window.
Most veggie seeds will be up in 2 weeks. Parsley and perennial flowers may take a month.
Remove the plastic covering: When most of the seedlings in a container are visible or if white mold starts to form (they need air circulation).
Once above ground, bright light will keep your seedlings compact and healthy.
Transplant: When 1 or 2 sets of true leaves have grown. "True Leaves" are the ones which look like the ones the adult plant will have.
It's a good idea to acclimate your seedlings to the outdoors for 1 to 2 weeks before planting outside. Put the container outside in a sheltered spot for a few hours at a time initially. Ideally you would increase this time every couple days.