Seeds = packets

Winter is here and I am already thinking about starting seeds for next spring.

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain outside.  Believe me, it was a welcome sound despite causing me to change my plans for the day. In West Texas, I will never complain about a gentle, easy rain.

This one couldn’t have come at a better time.  If you aren’t getting ready to plant seeds in your garden, you are behind!  The time is upon us when seed packets should be strewn around the dining table, rough and ready sketches of the garden area are everywhere, and wonder how much we want to gamble on that average last frost date.

Get the Information

I am a big fan of the information I find on those seed packets and in seed catalogs.  By and large, I believe that the seed companies want you to succeed with their products so their information and instructions are accurate and will, if followed, return a healthy germination rate on your seeds.

However, over the years, I have come to some general conclusions.  One is that these instructions don’t take into account some factors and the other is that seed companies tend to generalize their information.  Here are some specific tricks I have learned about planting seeds in the soil.

Planting Recommendations

Don’t Plant to Deep.

Most seed companies advise you to plant most seed from 1/8” to ¼” deep except for the largest seeds such as squash, beans, and corn.  I disagree.   My rule of thumb is

Plant no deeper than the diameter of the seed

Some seeds shouldn’t be covered

Some seeds need light to germinate.  These seeds should be planted by simply sowing on loosened soil and then lighten moistened to keep them from blowing away.

Lightly cover these seeds with soil after planting

Beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chards, cucumbers, melons, okra, onions, parsley, peas, radishes, and spinach

Sow these seeds on top of the soil

Ageratum, Astilbe, Balloon flower, cleome, coleus dill, impatiens, lettuce, Mexican sunflower, ornamental peppers, petunias, savory, shasta daisy, strawflower, sweet alyssum and yarrow

Soaking can help with germination

Seeds soaked for 12 to 24 hours before planting often show higher and quicker germination rates.  Beans and other seeds that are high in proteins absorb water quickly and should only soak for 2 to 4 hours. 

Very small seeds should be soaked then allowed to dry before planting.  Doing so makes handling tiny seeds much easier.

If your planting area is already saturated, don’t soak your seeds.  It can lead to rotting.

If you plan on planting early and the soil temperature is less than 50 degrees, soaking will gain you no real advantage.

If you saved seed or are planting last year’s seeds (or even older), test the germination rates before planting.   Anything less than a 50% germination rate is probably a waste of time. (See our article on Seed Germination Testing)

A Garden Journal

seeds = catalogs

Keep notes in your garden journal about your planting.  Note what variety you planted, the date you planted, soil temperature, and any other pertinent information.   Come back and note the date the first seedlings appear and later make an estimate of your germination rates. 

Do a follow up planting in spaces where seeds failed to germinate.  This quick succession planting will ensure that you get all the harvest you planned as well as extend your harvest that bit of time between the first and successive plantings.

Above all, enjoy yourself.   I love planting in the springtime.   Getting m hands in the soil, the sunshine, the smells are all like a tonic.  And the excitement as the first sprouts begin to appear.  Its like magic and never ceases to amaze me. 

Links and Resources

For more information about organic gardening, lifestyles, and living, visit our website at West Texas Organic Gardening.

If you found the information here helpful, you might also find these articles on our website of interest.

Organic Growing Myths

Toss Your Tiller


If you have more specific questions or problems, you can contact us using the contact form on our website. You can also post your question to our community forum at this page; West Texas Organic Gardening Community Forum.

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