Many people prefer to grow their own transplants. It's easy to do and enjoyable. Most seed stores stock only the transplant varieties that are most popular. In order to try new varieties you will have to produce them yourself.
Tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, collards, cabbage and onions are usually started from transplants. If you want watermelons, cantaloupes, cucumbers, squash and other vegetables to yield earlier, you can also start them indoors.
The most common container for starting transplants is a seed flat. You can construct it out of discarded lumber you have around the home. A 12" x 24" x 3" size is easy to handle and is large enough to grow 250 to 300 plants to transplanting size without too much crowding. Some people prefer to move the plants to individual cups once they come up. This is fine but be sure to remove the cups when the transplants are planted in your garden. If cups are not removed the plants will be stunted the entire season.
This is true even of peat pots. Several years ago I was talking with a producer about some watermelon transplants he had grown in peat pots. He said at the start of planting he was removing each pot. On toward the end of planting he became pushed for time and quit removing the peat pots. The plants that did not have the peat pots removed never caught up with the other transplants during the entire growing season.
Good topsoil is hard to find and often contains weed seed and disease organisms. So your plants may die if you use soil that has not been sterilized. It's probably best to buy your potting soil so you don't have to worry about these problems.
Follow the directions for planting the particular seed you have. Place the seeded flats in an area where the temperature is fairly constant. Most vegetable seed germinate best at a temperature of 75 degrees to 80 degrees F.
Tomatoes can be transplanted deeper than they grew in the seed flat. Other vegetables should be transplanted at the same depth they grew in the seed flat.
Stop by the Extension Office and get the latest gardening information. Use the time between now and spring to refresh your gardening knowledge.