The scientific name for the cucumber seedling above is cotyledon, or seed leaf, and this has two leaves so it is classified as a dicot (versus a monocot with one leaf like a grass seedling). Okay, if the Latin is dull, watching something grow in the dead of winter is not!
If you've never grown a plant from seed, it is really very easy to do. You can go to WalMart or Ace Hardware and pick up a cheap Jiffy Greenhouse seed starter kit. Walmart has Burpee seeds available for as little as $1 a pack.
If you have adequate window light, just water the Jiffy pellets, (see blog from Jan. 25) placing a seed in each one, and then cover with the provided plastic lid and there you go. If you don't have a decent supply of window light for your seeds, you can rig up one pretty easily. Here's how my handy husband set up one for me. It's just four influorescent lightbulbs (the kind for plants) mounted on to two different fluorescent light holders. Then they are attached to to pieces of wood with eye hooks in them and hung from the ceiling, again with eye hooks. My table is literally two plastic saw horses with a scrap of plywood set on top.
Grab a pack of tomato seeds and maybe some early flowering seeds and get started.
You don't need a heat mat, although this does speed up the sprouting process. I even leave my lights on 24 hours a day and the plants don't seem to notice that I didn't turn them off at night. Yes, this is the easy & lazy method which I'm all for. You can put perlite on top of your loosely covered seeds to prevent damping off, although I don't do that either. But as my seeds have sprouted, I did crack open the lid a bit to allow more circulation, which is important for our miniature greenhouse.
Not only is starting seeds cheap entertainment, you'll get to reap the rewards come spring in the form of unique vegetables and flowers that aren't available locally. I don't even have my vegetable garden started outside. It's only a plot of neglected yard grass and weeds. I'll need it ready in about six weeks, so I have some time. By then I'll have all kinds of heirloom tomatoes and interesting plants grown from seed that will need a new home.
(Second photo: The cheap Jiffy Greenhouse is on the left. Note the home made light system.)