Pansies from Seeds

Hi
I'm going to be starting 3 different kinds of pansies froom seeds, and I wanted to know if there are any tips anyone can share? I've never really started many flowers from seed, especially bedding-type plants. The packets say to start 12 weeks before planting out, so the timing is about right. Should I pinch them back at some point? They'll be growing on a two-tier, eight-bulb, 48" growing table that I had made at the machine shop where I work.
Robin Alexandria, VA
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Robin, where you live pansies should be planted in the fall so they can become nice lush plants to burst into bloom in early Spring. If you plant them now, you will be disappointed. 12 weeks until planting out little cell pack plants that will get large enough to have 2 or 3 flowers before the heat does them in if you're lucky. If I were you I'd put the seed in the refrigerator and save it until late July/early August. If you want the pansies now, go buy some at Lowe's, Home Depot or WalMart and plant them now. In late July prepare a pot (size depends on how many plants you want to end up with) with soiless seed starter mix. Moisten it well. Sow the seeds thinly on the surface - do not cover them. You can make shallow depressions, like rows, so you can sow them in rows and know where to look for the seedlings when they germinate. Cover the pot with newspaper, black plastic, or something that will block out all light and put the pot in a place that's about 75 deg. After 1 week, begin to check daily for germination. When at least 1/2 of what you sowed is up gradually move the pot to bright light. Transplant the seedlings when they're about 1" tall into cell packs or small individual pots. To avoid transplanting, you can sow directly into cell packs or small pots and treat as above. Grow the small plants as cool as you can given the conditions of the time of year. You should be able to plant out in Oct or Nov. Good luck Gary

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