This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
If no hot-bed or cold-frame is to be used, let the seed-bed be made (out of the soil selected, or prepared as above) in some situation in the garden, sheltered from the cold winds, and having a southern exposure. Then, as soon as the ground becomes warm, say early in April, sow the seed on the surface and cover them with a little fine earth. If the seed be small the earth ought to be sifted upon them. Be careful not to cover the seed too deep. As good a rule perhaps as can be suggested is to cover them about twice the depth of their own thickness.
Do not permit the soil to become too dry. Should the weather be dry after sowing, cover the small seeds with a thin layer of moss, or better, with cedar twigs, or with boards elevated so as to be a few inches above the bed. This partial protection will prevent, in a measure, the drying action of the wind and sun. Recollect, however, that as soon as the plants appear above the soil, the covering must be removed. The soil must be kept damp, but not too wet. Sprinkle the bed at or after sundown The bed should be raised enough to allow of good drainage.
If the plants are too thick when they come up, it will be best to thin them out. In sowing, let them be thrown evenly and thinly. They are to be transplanted when they have obtained their second leaves and are an inch or two long. The seed-bed is intended to be a help in the cultivation of tender flower-plants. The more hardy kinds can be sowed where they are to grow. Some persons sprout choice seed in a shallow box containing suitable earth, and kept in the house window. The seed-bed in the garden, it must be recollected, will require especial attention, should the nights happen to be frosty. - Rural Sun.