Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
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Seed Starting Resources

Those of us who live in cooler climates and who want to get a jump-start on the growing season have been thinking about seed-starting recently. Last winter I shared several informative posts about how and when to start seeds. This winter I thought it would be beneficial to present all of those resources to you in one easy-access post. So without further ado – here are some of my favorite resources for seed starting.

Arcadia Farms Seed Starting Plans

Here’s a peek into how we’ve put all of the advice below together to create our own seed starting plan.

2013 Seed Starting Plan

2014 Seed Starting Plan


soaking onion seeds in water

Seed Starting Spreadsheet Template

Instructions for how to use this spreadsheet are included on the first tab.

Seed Sources

Here are my favorite sources for seeds (heirloom and open-pollinated).

Soaking Seeds

Soaking seeds before planting speeds up germination by stirring up the process of the dormant baby plant inside the seed’s hull coming to life.

Optimum Transplant Age

Starting seeds indoors helps gardeners in cooler climates to get a jump start on the growing season. But how soon should you start your seeds? This chart provides guidelines for optimum transplant ages of select crops.

Square Foot Gardening Plant Spacing

Here’s a cheat sheet chart to let you know how many plants to sow per square foot. It’s easy to read on your mobile device so that you can use it in the garden.

Planting by Moon Phases

Did you know that the gravitational pull of the moon actually impacts the success rate of seedlings? Check this article out to learn more about the phenomenon and how you can use it to your advantage in the garden.

kale seedling in newspaper pot

Planting in Newspaper Pots

When you start seeds indoors, you need media – a substance to start your seeds in. I’m now using potting soil in plastic trays, but there are several options. Here’s an analysis of them all, along with details on how to make your own newspaper pots.

Keeping a Garden Journal

A garden journal is a tool you can use to keep track of important garden stats and observations. Being able to look back on this information will help you to plan for next year and will help you to identify patterns in your garden that you otherwise wouldn’t detect. In general, a garden journal allows you to record your successes and failures and details that may have impacted the outcome.

Square Foot Garden Seed Tape

Here’s an easy way to prepare for your spring garden while the snow is still on the ground. Seed tape helps you evenly space your seeds for maximization of resources.

Setting Up Your Garden for Seed-Saving

Here is a fabulous webinar video by Seed Savers Exchange on how to design your garden for seed saving. The post includes my summary notes to highlight the key concepts for those of you who don’t have time to watch the whole thing.

Container Gardening Tips

Everyone can have a garden, including renters and apartment dwellers. Here are some tips on container gardening to make yours a success.

Chitting (Sprouting) Potatoes

Chitting potatoes is the act of sprouting them before they are planted. It speeds up the maturity process and it’s super easy. This guide will show you how.

bean seedling

Planting Garlic

Garlic is a staple in the kitchen for many of us. The fact that it’s so easy and inexpensive to grow means it would also be a great staple in your garden. Here are tips for the best type of garlic for your garden, when to plant it and how to plant.

Garden Apps Wish List

For the technologically inclined among us, here are some apps that can streamline the gardening process.

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Soaking Seeds

soaking onion seeds in water

If you’re not into starting seeds, my gardening posts have probably sounded like a boring broken record this winter. I can’t help it… getting the most out of a Michigan growing season partially hinges on how and when you start your seeds. Now is a great time to start seeds for your home garden. (Not sure you can grow a garden where you are? I’d love to help you create a FREE custom plan that you CAN do! Email me: I’ve shared lots of info on seed starting, including post 1, post 2, post 3 and post 4. All the same, I wanted to talk to you about one other helpful seed-starting tip: soaking seeds.

Why Soak Seeds?

Soaking seeds before planting speeds up germination by stirring up the process of the dormant baby plant inside the seed’s hull coming to life. If you think about it, seeds are designed to withstand all that nature can throw at it – wind, cold, heat, animals, etc. Because of this, they have some natural defenses designed to keep them intact until they meet the right soil, water and heat conditions to begin growing. In nature, seeds get roughed up before they grow. In your garden, they’re relatively coddled compared to their wild relatives.  Plus once they get covered by dirt, the soil wicks away some of the moisture needed to start the growing process. Pre-soaking your seeds gives them all the water they need to get a jump start on life.

How to Soak Seeds

The process is pretty easy. Start with very warm tap water. Add the seeds directly and let them do their thing. The web is fully of inconclusive advice about how long seeds should soak. Here are the guidelines you should operate within. First, the bigger the seed and the harder the hull (shell), the longer they should be soaked. Second, you shouldn’t let you seeds soak for more than 24 hours because taking on too much water can make them rot. Turns out the old school practice of soaking seeds – like many other parts of gardening the way Grandma used to – is more art than science. You’ll have to experiment with how long to soak your seeds (use your garden journal to keep track of the results!). I’m aiming to soak seeds between 8 and 12 hours depending on the size of the hull.

Which Seeds Should I Soak

Because the purpose of soaking seeds is to break through that hard protective outer shell and to give the seed a good healthy drink before it is planted, small seeds are probably not good candidates for soaking. Small seeds – such as carrot and tomato – might benefit from 15-30 minutes of soaking but are too small to soak for a long period of time. On the flip side, pumpkin, cucumber, peas and beans will benefit from a good, long soaking (no more than 24 hours). Beet seeds and the like fall into the middle of the range and might be soaked for more like 4-8 hours.

Just like the “How to soak seeds?” question the answer to “Which seeds should I soak?” is inconclusive. Experienced seed-soaker Sally Roth offers this advice in her article about seed soaking at

“I presoak just about everything except for the tiniest seeds. But I’m always careful not to presoak my seeds until the night before planting them in pots or in the garden. Once the seeds have swollen, get them into moist soil immediately, then keep them well watered until they’re up and growing. This simple technique can shave several days off the usual germination time.”

Anyone else out there have experience with and advice on soaking seeds?

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