Starting plants from seed outdoors requires the knowledge of your local climate and your hardiness zone. The country is separated into zones according to the lowest annual winter temperature. What can be planted and when is based on these zones. Here in Massachusetts, we're in zone 5, meaning I need to wait until usually May to plant annuals outdoors. Don’t go by the calendar exclusively, however. Make your judgments based on the weather.
For seeds to germinate they require air, moisture and soil. Begin your seed planting project by preparing the soil. This means grading the soil smooth and removing any rocks and debris. Add to the soil a mix of peat moss (for water retention) and compost (for nutrients). Once the soil is graded smooth, mark out where the seeds will be planted. In those areas create what are called drills; small indentations in the soil which are about 2 to 3 times the diameter of the seed. Spread the seed over the area and rake the soil over the seeds gently. Very fine seeds should be mixed with sand before spreading. And should not be completely cover with soil.
Don’t water the seeds. The force of the water will disturb the new planting and scatter the seeds. Simply dampen the soil prior to planting if it’s dry. If the weather remains dry after planting, place wet newspapers over the planted area to keep the planting bed moist. Some seeds need protection from birds so cover them with hay or intertwined twigs.
Once the seedlings begin to emerge, reduce their number to 1 per every 1 or 2 square inches. A week or so later remove additional seedling so that they are at their recommended distance apart from one another. Planted them too close together and they’ll compete for water and nutrients. Plants also need space to grow to their natural size. Over crowded planting beds usually result in awkwardly shaped pants.