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Since I started growing plants from seeds in earnest a few years ago the amount of plants I produce has increased almost exponentially. That is only problematic from a space standpoint. I plant or have homes waiting for all of the plants so none go to waste and I think my garden is better because of this exercise.

Tiny basil seedlings pop up giving hope for delicious herbs to come.  A few days past this stage I’ll thin out two seedlings so just one is left in each soil block or cell.

Last year, as I spent every day after work tending to plants, watering, moving trays, transferring things from the growing area in the house to the temporary greenhouse I set up to grow on and harden off plants I swore I wouldn’t grow so much from seed. You can guess how that turned out.

This year I’m growing more different plants than ever from seed, and an increasingly large number of flowers. I’m trying to limit the amount of each thing I grow (I don’t really need 15 parsley plants) and made a conscious effort to add flowers that can easily be direct sown.

Here’s what I’m growing from seed this year (links take you to the specific seeds I ordered):

Baby nasturtiums


  • Peppers *
  • Tomatoes (multiple varieties from several sources)
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Cucumbers (multiple varieties, multiple sources)
  • Lettuce (multiple varieties, multiple sources)
  • Peas
  • Arugula
  • Carrots (maybe)
* Some seeds from Renee’s Garden Seeds were given to me free as part of a garden writers trial program.

When you’re starting that many things from seed (and trust me, seeing the list in print makes me realize I’ve really gone overboard this year), you need a plan. And that’s where my geek flag starts flying. I’m not a big spreadsheet person, but it’s the only way I’ve figured to efficiently manage this seed-starting operation. I keep it pretty simple, using a combination of information from the back of seed packets, Annuals and Tender Plants for North American Gardens by Wayne Winterrowd (out of print but I found a used copy on Amazon) and online resources including Margaret Roach’s seed starting calculator

Plants grown in soil blocks are ready to pot on or transplant when the roots are coming out the sides.

When I get a seed starting date (X number of weeks before the last frost), I count back from what I think will be our last frost. That part is a bit of a guessing game, but because in general things have been warmer than usual here (well they were until we got a foot of snow this week), I used the 50% frost free date, meaning based on past data, there is a 50-50 chance the risk of frost has passed for the year. This year that date is May 14.


Once I figure out dates, I include notes on germination requirements, how to plant the seeds, germination time and anything else that’s necessary to know for the seed starting portion of growing. That way I don’t have to look up each thing when I’m planting. Here’s a copy of my spreadsheet that you can download. Keep in mind this isn’t anything fancy and all of the timing is based on my frost free date of May 14. You’ll have to adjust it for your date. 
I use large rolling shelving to start seeds on, making it easy to adjust the height of lights. In the off season the rack serves as storage in the basement.

For more information on how I start seeds, check out these articles:

What are you growing from seed this year?

7 Responses

  1. I'm growing loads of plants from seed, too. 49 different varieties! Ammi has a long tap root and hates to be disturbed so I grow mine in extra tall drink cups. They stay in the cups until I'm ready to move them into the garden. Gomphrena germinates best if you just surface sow the seeds and keep the soil warm with a heat mat. I grow it every year. :o) Good luck!!

  2. I have the same seed starting set-up, only mine isn't on wheels. Mine is plain old shop lights and shelving from Menards. I really enjoy your blog. I'm in western Wisconsin, so we have pretty much the same climate. Keep up the great work!

  3. Wow. I am exhausted just thinking about this. Having said that I've bought flower seed on a scale I've never done before. I am paring back on veg though. The critters eat more than me and it's becoming a fruitless exercise.

  4. I wish I had room for this big rollaway shelving. I just don't have room for such a thing. My windows are taken up with plants I over winter. I am jealous of all of these plants. Your garden will be full of color and food this year. Well done.

  5. I must disagree with you on the number of parsley plants you need. Fifteen seems perfectly reasonable. I use them as a border plant along the walkways in my vegetable garden. Because they are biennials, there's fresh green in the early spring.

    Another border-type flower I like is the gem marigold series. Lovely scent with bug repellent properties. I start them from seed because you can't find them in nurseries. Also, I need at least two dozen plants to line the borders and that runs into money.

    Let the season begin.

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