I try to be a frugal gardener, and I know it works against me sometimes - I'm hoping it doesn't for my latest plan. I've never bought special seed starting mix or peat pellets - I've tried to mix up something on my own that I hope would have things seeds need. This spring I decided to try something simpler.
I've had a large bag of sphagnum peat moss ever since I repotted my carnivorous plants last year. I decided to try using an all-peat mix to start seed in this time. I figured it should be good because, peat can hold a lot of moisture and that's what seed need most of all.
The first thing you need to know about working with peat is that it takes a while to prepare - It's very fluffy and you need to let it soak up as much water as you can. I usually take a large pot of water and add peat to it, continually submerging handfuls of it until it's completely soaked. I was a little disappointed in the peat I had - it wasn't as fine and uniform as I remembered. There were a lot of stems and other large pieces, which I tried to pull out as I came across them.
Once I had the seed flats filled with moist peat, I buried my seed in it - I had a variety of them, from flower to vegetables, slow to fast germinating and reliable and unreliable. It's been almost three weeks for most of the seeds and the only one that has sprouted is the squash - one of the reliable ones. I'm wondering if the peat was packed to tightly, or if they were affected by the frost we had one night, or the opposite - the driveway where the seeds flats are, has gotten hot with highs near 80 degrees recently.
The only thing I can do about it now is try to learn from it and move on. Since our last expected frost date is a little more than two weeks away, I went ahead and sowed seeds directly in the garden. With any luck they'll sprout and my summer gardening will have begun.