2014 Seed Starting Plan


kale seedling in newspaper potEarlier this month I shared the 2014 Main Garden Plan for Arcadia Farms (and you can see it by clicking here). I’m still working on plans for the Fenceline Garden because I’d like to transition it from a garden of annuals to a space for perennial fruit and herbs. (Here’s a picture of what it looked like last year.)

The seed catalogs have started pouring in and, just like last year, I’m looking to get a jump start on my spring garden by starting seeds indoors. Because last year’s garden was the source of my CSA produce, I needed to consider criteria such as yield (high), days to maturity (short) and uniqueness as I selected seeds. This year the Main Garden’s primary function is to feed our family although I will occasionally be selling excess produce or crops planted especially for our brokerage customer(s). That allows me to have different criteria, including:

  • Suiting our family’s tastes and needs
  • Limiting varieties to better facilitate seed saving (less chance of cross-pollination)
  • Timing for personal consumption (spread out) rather than commercial (large amounts maturing at once)

Fortunately I’ve assembled quite a collection of seeds over the last few years – including purchases and seeds from my own garden – so I have relatively few seeds that I need to buy. My plan is to save even more seeds from the garden this year and slowly reduce my dependence on outside sources.

Seed Sources

For those rare instances where I do need to buy more seeds, I’m sticking with my favorite suppliers. Although they are all excellent sources of seeds, my favorite has come to be Hart’s. I’ve always had great success with plants grown from Hart seeds. Also they are committed to providing only seeds that are not Genetically Engineered (sometimes referred to as GMO) and they are consistently the most inexpensive of all the sources I’ve found. I’m able to buy their seeds both online and at my favorite local garden center (Wedel’s in Kalamazoo). The only catch is that they don’t have as much variety as many other seed sources. When Hart’s doesn’t have what I’m looking for, I turn to Annie’s Heirloom Seeds (a Michigan company), Seed Savers Exchange, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Victory Seeds (excellent customer service!) or Sustainable Seed Company. I’ve also purchased seeds from Botanical Interests, Burpee and Seeds of Change.

Starting and Transplanting Seeds

free seed starting plan software

Click on the image above to download a spreadsheet that will help you determine when to start your seeds.

Now that I’m gardening for a living I usually receive a lot of questions during the winter about when and how to start seeds. Remember that I’m no expert (yet!) and the whole point of Arcadia Farms is to provide an opportunity for our family to develop the skills of a sustainable lifestyle and to share what we learn with others. In that spirit I won’t pretend to be an all-knowing expert, but I do have quite a bit of experience now (bolstered by wisdom from much more experienced gardeners) and I feel pretty confident that I can give you some solid advice.

If you click here you’ll find a spreadsheet that shows the Arcadia Farms 2014 Seed Starting Plan. The spreadsheet shows when to start each type of crop, when to transplant them (if appropriate) and when to expect a harvest. It also tells me how many seeds I need to start (or at least it will when I get to that part!), the provider and variety name of each crop and any notes that may be helpful. This year I also added a column for Moon Favorable Dates. For more info on how and why you would want to plant by the phases of the moon, click here. You can download the same Seed Starting Plan Template FREE to streamline your own seed starting plan. Instructions are included on the first tab. To download, click here.

The spreadsheet is pretty comprehensive and the information provided on your seed packets will take a you long ways toward completing it. However, that are some other resources you’ll need to make the most of it. First you’ll want to know how old your plants should be before you transplant them into the garden. For information on optimal transplant ages (in days), click here.

Next, you’ll want to determine which crops could be planted before the last frost date and which needed to wait until after. (The average last frost date is the projected date on which the last hard freeze is predicted to be on during the spring.  Cool-hardy plants can survive – sometimes thrive – through some frost, but more tender plants such as tomatoes will be damaged by extreme cold and need to be planted past any danger of frost.) I’m using May 18 as the last frost date in my zone.

You’ll also want to explore which plants do well as transplants and which plants should be sown directly into your garden soil. Here’s a partial list to get you started (below). If you have questions about something that’s not shown here, you can always consult my good gardening friend: Google.

Plants That Do Best
Direct Sown
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Onions (sets)
  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Garlic
Transplanted (Start Indoors)
  • Tomatoes
  • Squash
  • Lettuce & other greens
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Herbs
  • Peppers
  • Melons

Last year I also spent a lot of time reviewing different methods of starting seeds, including newspaper pots. These might work well for you, but I determined that of all the methods I reviewed, the best way to start seeds is by growing them in trays full of potting soil.

New Crops for 2014

For those most part we’re growing very basic crops this year. For example, Roma tomatoes serve both our fresh-eating and cooking needs so there won’t be any traditional slicing tomatoes in this year’s garden. Also we’re not much for salads so lettuce will be limited. There are, however, some unique and new things I’m really looking forward to, including:

Planning Your Garden

If you’re new to gardening or just have questions about how to plan your space, I would love to help! I can help you select crops that will work well for your land, climate, family, etc. and to select a layout. For more information check out our Custom Garden Plans page.

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