Indoor seed starting basic question
Years ago, I used to sometimes plant some seeds and start seedlings indoors. I did this in a window-shelf situation, in a few trays, and without any grow-light supplementation. I used garden soil, more or less - and part of the reason I stopped germinating my own seedlings was two problems: damping off; and the tendency for the seedlings to get leggy.
Now I've got a seed-starting shelf stand (four shelves) that has grow lights, plus gets some sunlight on the sunnier days. Light is solved. The issue now is soil.
I decided to try a commercially packaged "organic" potting soil. This is a sterilized soil and I felt it would prevent damping off - and in fact, I've had NO damping off.
On these shelves, I've planted all sorts of things to give them an earlier start than either our unheated greenhouse or direct seeding in the garden could give them. Coleus, petunias, peppers, parsley, tomatoes - and, later, lettuces.
I was advised by a gardening friend to wait until the germinated seedlings had put out their "real" (second-set) leaves before giving any watering with dilute fertilizer. I've used an organic liquid fertilizer as directed on the container label, but I must say that growth of the germinated seeds has been pretty slow.
On the other hand, I have another friend who says essentially "phooey on using a sterile potting soil straight from the bag - I use bagged potting soil, but I add compost and a little rotted manure and my seedlings do great!" (It's true that hers look great.)
So - slightly disappointed by my results - I'm feeling a little confused. Can you help me out?