It is best to start your plants under glass from seed before you introduce them to your garden. Consequently, a lot depends on the quality of the seed so you should buy the best ones you can get your hands on. To begin with buy your seeds from several sources and settle on the seller which provides the best results.

Good plants are equally important to the success of your vegetable garden. Most vegetables are not best suited to being grown from seed sown outdoors. In most cases, it is best to begin their lives inside. Starting plants under glass before planting them out will give them the best chance of doing well. Knowing which plants are good for planting out and those that are not will come with experience. You will know a good one when you see it. Healthy, deep-coloured plants will jump out at you as ready to take hold and grow. You can buy plants ready for planting out but to ensure the quantities and varieties you want, it's best to grow them yourself. Growing vegetables from seed is somehow more rewarding than doing so from a plant.

A cold frame is a glass roofed enclosure that will let in sunlight but retain heat. This will protect your fragile seeds from the cold weather. You can build one of these yourself or buy one. Either way, it will prove a great investment for starting your seeds and getting them ready for planting in your vegetable garden.

The soil you sow your seeds into should be rich and light. It's best to use a special seed compost to get your seeds off to a great start. You can sow your seeds directly into the soil or into a seed tray. Once you have sowed your seeds, in as little as two days, according to temperature and variety, small seedlings will start to appear. In some cases the seedlings will raise the soil up instead of breaking through it. If this happens, make sure the soil is broken up otherwise the seedlings may become bent. From now until they are ready to be planted out (which will be three to four weeks) is the danger zone when the seedlings are most prone to injury or neglect.

Ventilation - on days when the temperature in the frame is between 60 to 80 degrees (you can check this with a small thermometer) give the frame some air, either by jamming open the frame or, if it's warm enough outside, removing the glass entirely.

Watering - make sure you keep a close eye on the condition of the soil. Wait until it is fairly dry (but not until the plants begin to wilt) and give them all the water the soil will absorb. If possible, do this only in the morning on a bright sunny day.

With a little care, the seedlings should come on quickly. When the second true lead is forming, they are ready for transplanting. If the plants are crowded in the boxes, this should be done as soon as they are ready to avoid them damaging one another. Find a table or bench for working on. With a flat piece of stick or specialist tool lift out a clump of seedlings. Holding this clump with one hand, gently tear away the seedlings, one by one (throwing away crooked or weak ones). You should never try to pull seedlings straight from the soil as the roots can be easily broken off. It's a good idea to water the seedlings the day before you intend to transplant to make your job easier.