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Seed Starting Guide

Updated: Mar 21


In addition to being the owner/operators of Riggin Farm, we are also the founders of the nonprofit organization Food Skills For Our Future. The mission is to teach food-related classes to individuals with low income, high school & college students, and veterans who are transitioning back in to civilian life. Some of the topics we teach are cooking, baking, nutrition, and gardening. This guide is specific to the seed starting class we teach. Everyone who attends gets to choose from the plant varieties listed below and can utilize this blog post to achieve better success with more detailed information than what can fit on a seed packet. Riggin Farm also sells these seeds on our website, as do other retailers, so anyone can who purchases these seeds will benefit from reading the following information.


This SEED STARTING GUIDE has more information on starting seeds in general and will give you a great start when planning your home garden.


Tomatoes


Tomatoes prefer well-draining, fertile soil that is high in organic matter. Fertile clay and loams produce the highest quality yields but lighter soils that drain and warm quickly can produce earlier harvests. They tolerate slightly acidic soils and are most productive with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Tomatoes are heavy feeders and should be fertilized with an organic blend rich in phosphorus & potassium and a moderate level of nitrogen. Tomatoes require a minimum of 8 hours of direct sunlight daily and will develop faster with increased exposure. Indeterminate varieties will grow to be over 6’ tall and will require staking, caging, or trellising for support. Determinate varieties grow to a set height range depending on the particular type of tomato.


Amish Paste (Solanum lycopersicum) Large for a sauce tomato, Amish Paste's slightly irregular plum to strawberry-shaped fruits avg. 8-12 oz. with excellent flavor. These meaty tomatoes are good in salads and great for processing.

Indeterminate, USDA Certified Organic, Heirloom, Open Pollinated, Annual

Days to Germination - 5 to 7 days    

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 85 days

Planting Depth - ⅛”  

Spacing - 24”

Full sun 

Start indoors 6 weeks before the last frost. Optimal soil temperature for germination 75-95 degrees. Grow plants at 75 degrees after germination. 


Blush (Solanum lycopersicum) Sweet, fruity flavor with universal appeal.

Beautiful, bright yellow snacking tomato. Red stripes appear as blossom-end red marbling develops. Strong plants tolerate tough conditions. Great in mixes with the other Artisan tomatoes. 25-30 gm. fruits.

Indeterminate, USDA Certified Organic, Open Pollinated, Annual

Days to Germination - 5 to 7 days    

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 70 days

Planting Depth - ⅛”  

Spacing - 24”

Full sun 

Start indoors 6 weeks before the last frost. Optimal soil temperature for germination 75-95 degrees. Grow plants at 75 degrees after germination. 


Carbon (Solanum lycopersicum) Delicious, highly productive black heirloom.

Resists cracking and cat-facing better than other large, black heirlooms, producing a higher proportion of marketable fruit. Blocky-round, 10-14 oz. fruit with dark olive shoulders fading into a very dark, brick red. Boasts the signature rich flavor and meaty texture of a classic black tomato. Excellent yields and fruit quality for an heirloom. Productive over a longer period than similar types. Well-balanced plant habit.

Indeterminate, USDA Certified Organic, Heirloom, Open Pollinated, Annual 

Days to Germination - 5 to 7 days    

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 76 days

Planting Depth - ⅛”

Spacing - 24”

Full sun 

Start indoors 6 weeks before the last frost. Optimal soil temperature for germination 75-95 degrees. Grow plants at 75 degrees after germination. 


Matt’s Wild Cherry (Solanum lycopersicum) The wild tomato with great flavor.

These small cherry tomatoes are deep-red, tender, smooth, and full-flavored with a high sugar content. Though the flavor is superior, it doesn't yield as well as modern varieties, and the fruits are soft. Fantastic in salsa and for fresh eating. Some resistance to early blight and late blight.

Indeterminate, Open Pollinated, Annual

Days to Germination - 5 to 7 days    

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 60 days

Planting Depth - ⅛” 

Spacing - 24”

Full sun 

Start indoors 6 weeks before the last frost. Optimal soil temperature for germination 75-95 degrees. Grow plants at 75 degrees after germination. 


Dr Wyche’s (Solanum lycopersicum) Robust flavor. Yellow to golden fruits with meatier flavor and fewer blemishes than others in its class. Larger and more oblate than Valencia at 10–16 oz. Compared to Yellow Brandywine, which it replaces, it produces notably earlier, heavier yields on stronger plants.

Indeterminate, USDA Certified Organic, Heirloom, Open Pollinated, Annual 

Days to Germination - 5 to 7 days    

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 75 days

Planting Depth - ⅛” 

Spacing - 24”

Full sun 

Start indoors 6 weeks before the last frost. Optimal soil temperature for germination 75-95 degrees. Grow plants at 75 degrees after germination. 

Greens


Lettuce Mix (Lactuca sativa) A stunning mix of different colors, shapes, and textures. Includes green oakleaf, red oakleaf, green romaine, red romaine, red leaf, and bibb lettuces. Suitable for outdoor production or in low-light conditions present in hoophouses and greenhouses.

USDA Certified Organic, Open Pollinated, Annual 

Days to Germination - 5 to 7 days    

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 28 days

Seeds can germinate well in soils as low as 40°F but often poorly above 75°F . Sow 4–6 seeds/inch in rows at least 2" apart. Cover lightly to 1/8" and firm. Dry soil must be watered to ensure coolness and moisture for uniform germination. 

Full sun to part shade

Harvest: Cut about 1" above the growing point when leaves reach desired harvestable length, about 3–4" long. 


Chalupa (Lactuca sativa) Unique, sweet romaine with excellent bolt tolerance.

This medium-size, compact romaine is very upright with improved summer performance. Sweet-tasting plants are harvestable starting at an earlier stage with both impressive field-holding and shelf life. Matures 1–2 weeks earlier than full-size romaines.

USDA Certified Organic, Open Pollinated, Annual 

Days to Germination - 5 to 7 days    

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 45 days From date of cool weather, spring transplanting. Subtract 10–14 days for late spring or early summer, warm weather transplanting. Add about 14 days for direct seeding.

Planting Depth - ⅛”, sew on the surface and press down to ensure good contact with soil. Cover lightly with vermiculite or fine soil.

Spacing- 10-12”, Rows spaced 12-18”

Full sun to part shade

Lettuce is a hardy, cool-weather crop and can be direct seeded as soon as your soil can be worked. It grows best at 60–65°F and germinates best below 70°F. For transplants, 3–4 weeks before field planting, sow in 128-cell trays barely covered with vermiculite or fine soil. Sow every 2–3 weeks for a continuous supply of either full heads or salad mix.

Harvest: Cut at base, keeping wrapper leaves for handling loss. Consider cutting alternating plants to extend the harvest window, allowing remaining plants to continue to grow.


Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris) Nicely savoyed and glossy green or bronze leaves with stems of many colors including gold, pink, orange, red, & white with bright, pastel, & multicolored variations. The flavor is milder than ordinary chard, with each color a bit different. 

Open Pollinated, Annual  Days to Germination - 7 to 14 days    

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 5 days

Planting Depth - ½”

Spacing - 4-6” for larger leaves and 2” for baby leaves, rows spaced 12-18”

Full sun to part shade

Cool and mild weather is preferred, though chard has some heat tolerance. Seeds germinate in soil temperatures from 40–100°F with an optimum of 55-75°F. Seedlings will tolerate light frosts, and mature plants will tolerate moderate frosts. Swiss chard may overwinter in mild areas. Can be started indoors 5-6 weeks before heavy frosts become infrequent. (late winter)


Lacinato Kale (Brassica oleracea) Black Magic is a well-maintained selection of Toscano kale with long, narrow leaves for attractive and tall, straight bunches. Dark blue-green leaves with beautiful savoy. Lacinato or "dinosaur" type kale.

USDA Certified Organic, Open Pollinated, Annual 

Days to Germination - 3 to 8 days    

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 65 days from direct seeding; subtract about 14 days for days to maturity from transplant.

Planting Depth - ¼”

Spacing - 12-18”, Rows spaced 18-36”

Full sun to part shade

Kale prefers a fertile, well-draining soil high in organic matter with a pH range of 6.0–7.5. Consistent moisture will produce the highest-quality leaves. Plant from early spring to approximately 3 months before expected fall frost. Seedlings should be ready to transplant in 4–6 weeks. If possible, keep soil temperature over 75°F until germination, then reduce air temperature to about 60°F. Kale prefers cooler growing temperatures, between 55–75°F, optimum being 60–70°F. FALL CROP: Start seedlings as above in May and transplant to the garden in June–July. To ensure mature heads, seed the crop early in areas where heavy freezes occur early in fall.



Herbs


Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) Santo cilantro is a slow-bolting selection grown for its leaves. Like the leaves and seeds, the flowers are also edible.

Open Pollinated, Annual 

Days to Germination - 7 to 10 days    

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 50-55 days for leaf harvest, 90-105 for seeds

Planting Depth - ¼” to ½”, Direct seeding is recommended in spring through late summer. 

Spacing - ¼” to ½” apart, rows spaced at least 3” apart

For coriander seed production, thin to stand 2-4" apart. Successive sowings can be done every 2-3 weeks for continual harvest of leaves.

Full sun to part shade in the heat of summer, grows best in rich, well-drained soil. 

Harvestable at every stage. Leaves may be harvested once the plants have become established and before flowering begins. The immature seeds are sweet & fresh and can be harvested after they form on the flowers, until they become brown and dry. Mature seeds are produced about 3 months after planting and are harvested when dry on the plant.


Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) Chives are considered a cool-season crop and will grow best in spring and fall. The higher temperatures of summer will cause them to go dormant until cool weather returns. Chive blossoms are also edible. 

Open Pollinated, Perennial (Hardy Zones 3-9)

Days to Germination - 7 to 14 days at 60-70°F      

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 75-85 days

Planting Depth - ¼”, Direct seeding is recommended in spring or fall. 

Spacing - 4-6” apart in all directions. Also great for growing in containers.  

Full sun to part shade

Transplant: Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Sow several seeds per container. Transplant seedling clusters 6” apart.

Harvest: Individual leaves may be harvested once the plants are established. Harvest leaves before flowering begins. Leaves can be harvested 3-4 times the first year and monthly every year after, cut at ground level.

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) Huge, dark green leaves with great flavor. 

Open Pollinated, Biennial 

Days to Germination - 14 to 30 days at 65-70°F (For best germination, store seeds in the refrigerator)

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 75 days  

Planting Depth - ¼” to ½” or sow on surface and press down to ensure good contact with soil. Transplanting is recommended in late winter and early spring. Parsley is frost tolerant. Can be direct seeded outdoors in fall or very early spring. 

Spacing - 8-12” apart in all directions, Also great for growing in containers. 

Full sun to part shade, grows best in moist, fertile soil. Apply compost or a balanced fertilizer twice during the growing season. 

Harvest: Clip leaves when needed. To maintain the crispness and appearance of freshly harvested parsley, store at temperatures of 32–36°F at 95% relative humidity. 


Italian Basil (Ocimum basilicum) Authentic flavor and appearance. Tall and relatively slow to bolt with large dark-green leaves about 3-4" long. Flowers are edible. 

Open Pollinated, Annual

Days to Germination - 5 to 10 days at 65-70°F    

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 68 days 

Planting Depth - ¼”, direct seeding is recommended. Firm soil over the seeds.  

Spacing- 4-8” apart, Rows spaced 18” apart, Also great for growing in containers. 

Transplant: Start seeds indoors 6 weeks prior to the last frost. Transplant to the field when seedlings have 3-4 sets of leaves and all dangers of frost have passed. Basil is not frost tolerant. 

Full sun to part shade, grows best in moist, moderately rich soil. Basil is not drought tolerant and can be damaged by heat stress. Regular watering throughout the growing season will ensure healthy plants and a good harvest.  

Harvest: Begin light harvesting after plants have become established. It is best done in the early morning when the temperature is cooler and the leaves are less likely to wilt. A full harvest should be completed just before the plants start to flower. Cut the entire plant 4-6" above the ground to promote a second growth. Leaves are easily bruised when picking, so handle carefully. Do not store at a temperature less than 50°F.

Bunching Onions


Parade (Allium fistulosum) Organic bunching onion. Parade has bright white shanks with no bulbing and dark green foliage. Very uniform, upright growth makes for easy harvest and cleaning.

USDA Certified Organic, Open Pollinated, Annual

Days to Germination - 5 to 10 days at 65-70°F    

Days to Maturity/First Harvest -  65 days 

Planting Depth - ¼-½”, direct seeding is recommended from early spring to just before the first frost. Firm soil over the seeds. Successive sewings can be done every 3-4 weeks for a continuous supply. 

Spacing - ½” apart, in rows that are 2-3” wide, Also great for growing in containers. 

Seed can be sown in early spring for summer use, and in July or August for fall and spring use.

Will grow best in full sun but will tolerate part shade. Hardy varieties will normally survive winter if the soil is well drained. 

Transplant: Sew approximately 50 seeds in a 4” container 4-6 weeks before transplanting. Cut leaves back to 2” to encourage root development. Roots can be gently separated out when planting. 

Blanching: During the growing period hill the plants with soil 2 or 3 times, higher with each hoeing. This forces the leaves higher up the plant resulting in extra-long blanched stalks and a much greater edible portion. 

Harvest: Loosen the soil around onions with a fork or spade before gathering to prevent breakage. 


Deep Purple (Allium cepa) The first red buncher that is highly colored at any temperature. For spring or summer sowing. Cold tolerant variety.

USDA Certified Organic, Open Pollinated, Annual

Days to Germination - 5 to 10 days at 65-70°F    

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 60 days 

Planting Depth - ¼-½”, direct seeding is recommended from early spring to just before the first frost. Firm soil over the seeds. Successive sewings can be done every 3-4 weeks for a continuous supply. 

Spacing - ½” apart, in rows that are 2-3” wide, Also great for growing in containers. 

Seed can be sown in early spring for summer use, and in July or August for fall and spring use.

Will grow best in full sun but will tolerate part shade. Hardy varieties will normally survive winter if the soil is well drained. 

Transplant: Sew approximately 50 seeds in a 4” container 4-6 weeks before transplanting. Cut leaves back to 2” to encourage root development. Roots can be gently separated out when planting. 

Blanching: During the growing period hill the plants with soil 2 or 3 times, higher with each hoeing. This forces the leaves higher up the plant resulting in extra-long blanched stalks and a much greater edible portion. 

Harvest: Loosen the soil around onions with a fork or spade before gathering to prevent breakage. 


Beans & Squash


Trilogy Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) This mix of Provider, Royal Burgundy, and Rocdor is perfect for the gardener with limited space. NOTE: Provider will mature first, followed by Rocdor, and then Royal Burgundy. Bush bean.

USDA Certified Organic, Open Pollinated, Annual 

Days to Germination - 6 to 10 days 

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 70 days   

Planting Depth -1”  

Spacing -2 to 3” apart in rows 18-36” apart

Full sun, well-draining and fertile soil. 

Direct sow after all dangers of frost have passed. Optimum soil temperature for germination is 70–90°F. Plant when daytime soil temperatures average at least 60°F, or risk poor germination. Amend the planting bed with well rotted manure prior to planting. Inoculants can increase yields. After planting, do not water until the sprouts emerge unless it is very hot and dry. Water as needed throughout the growing season by soaking the soil around the beans but avoid watering the foliage. 

For a continuous supply, make successive sowings every 2-3 weeks through midsummer. Harvest regularly to encourage new pods to set. 


Cocozelle (Cucurbita pepo) Cocozelle summer squash grows on a bush type plant, making this variety ideal for small vegetable gardens. This squash is dark green with light green stripes and is best when harvested under 12” long. This is a very flavorful and tender variety that is great for cooking, freezing, or canning. Edible Flowers: Blossoms bear a mild, squash-like flavor that are great stuffed & fried or sliced for use in soups, omelets, salads, and pasta dishes.

Heirloom, Open Pollinated, Annual

Days to Germination - 4 to 10 days at 60-85°F    

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 55 days 

Planting Depth - 1”, Direct seed (recommended)  into the garden after any threat of frost has passed when soil temps are over 70°F. 

Spacing - 18-24” apart in rows or hills spaced 24 to 36” apart. 

Full sun, well draining and fertile soil. Squash plants require consistent moisture throughout the growing season. 1 to 1.5” per week is best. Mulch plants to preserve moisture. 

Transplant: Start seeds indoors 3-4 weeks before the last frost. Sew 2-3 seeds in individual biodegradable pots or 1 seed per 2” soil block to reduce root damage when transplanting.  

Harvest: Harvest regularly, 2-3 times a week, once plants begin to produce. Cut or gently twist off fruits when they have reached the desired size, about 6-8" long. Store at 40-50°F, 95% relative humidity for up to 2 weeks. Use as soon as possible for best quality.


Root Vegetables


Easter Egg Radish (Raphanus sativus) Multicolor mix of red, purple, pink, and white round radishes. Maturing over an extended period of time, they stay crisp and mild even when large. Tolerates light frosts. 

Open Pollinated, Annual

Days to Germination - 3 to 10 days     

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 25 to 35 days   

Planting Depth - ½”, direct seeding is recommended beginning in late winter/early spring through fall.  

Spacing - 3” apart in rows 6-12” apart. Also great for growing in containers. 

Full sun in cooler temps and partial shade during warmer weather. Prefers well-draining, loose fertile soil. Soil should be kept moist but not saturated. Avoid letting soil dry out. Apply a moderate amount of compost or a balanced fertilizer prior to planting. Too much fertilizer during growing will cause an overproduction of greens at the sacrifice of root growth.

Harvest: Harvest promptly to avoid pithiness, beginning at about 3-4 weeks when roots are the size of a large marble. Topped radishes will keep 3–4 weeks in good, crisp condition if kept at 32°F, 95% relative humidity, and in breathable packaging.


Bull’s Blood (Beta vulgaris) Deep burgundy leaves for salad or microgreens.

Heirloom variety produces beautiful dark red leaves even under low-light conditions. The foliage color intensifies as the plant matures. Provides color and interest to salad mixes. Roots show attractive candy-striped zoning when sliced.

USDA Certified Organic, Heirloom, Open Pollinated, Annual

Days to Germination - 3 to 10 days    

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 35 days for baby leaf, 58 days for roots  

Planting Depth - ½”, direct seeding is recommended. Begin early sowings when soil has warmed to 45°F. For a continuous supply of greens and small, tender beets, sow seed at 2-week intervals until 8 weeks before regular heavy frosts are expected. 

Spacing - 3” apart in rows 6-12” apart. 

Full sun in cooler temps and part shade during warm. Prefers well-draining, loose fertile soil. Soil should be kept moist but not saturated. Avoid letting soil dry out. Apply a moderate amount of compost or a balanced fertilizer prior to planting. Too much fertilizer during growing will cause an overproduction of greens at the sacrifice of root growth.

Transplant: Sow seeds in a cold frame or indoors in early spring, about 5–6 weeks before transplanting out after heavy frosts become infrequent. Sow 1/2" deep, 2–3 seeds per cell. Transplant 3" apart. Beets transplanted using this method may not be as uniform as direct-seeded beets. However, transplanted beets can bring earlier harvests if poor weather conditions persist and interfere with direct seeding.

Harvest: Roots: Fork, lift plants, wash, store bunches up to 10 days at 32°F and 95% relative humidity. Baby Leaf: Harvest with a knife when leaves reach desired size, about 3–6". Cut about an inch above the soil to allow for clean regrowth, making sure to cut above the basal plate. Cut again when leaves are at desired size (5–14 days, depending on variety).

Winter Storage of Roots: Sow seeds about 10 weeks before heavy freeze is expected. Grow and harvest as usual. Roots can be stored up to 6 months at 32°F and 95% humidity.

Flowers


Nasturtium (Tropaeolum minus) Green-and-white variegated foliage. Improved strain of brilliant, single, 2" flowers in yellow, crimson, orange, salmon and cherry. Compact, mound-shaped plants. Lower growing variety that does not require support. 

Edible Flower: Use the flowers as garnishes, or stuff with soft cheese. The flowers can be minced and added to butters and the immature seed heads can be pickled. Nasturtiums are a popular choice for adding color to salad mix. Peppery-flavored foliage is also edible.

Open Pollinated, Annual 

Days to Germination - 7 to 14 days at 60-65°F    

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 55 to 65 days   

Planting Depth - ½-1”, direct seeding is recommended 2 weeks before last frost. Darkness required for germination.   

Spacing - 8-12” apart. Also great for growing in containers and hanging baskets. 

Full sun to partial shade, Well-draining, but not especially rich soil. High nitrogen levels promote more foliage than flower production.

Transplant: Start indoors 3-4 weeks before last frost. 


Marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia) Hundreds of petite flowers cover neat, low mounds of lacy foliage with a citrusy scent. Long-blooming for beds, borders, and containers where it attracts beneficial insects such as ladybugs, hoverflies, butterflies, predatory bugs, and parasitic wasps. Leaves of the plant are edible and are used as flavorful salad greens and garnish. Also known as signet marigold.

Edible Flower: Use the flowers to dress up salads and desserts or cook in egg or rice dishes. Flavor is floral with hints of citrus & spice and slightly bitter. Remove the petals from the flower base before consuming as the base can be quite bitter.

Open Pollinated, Annual 

Days to Germination - 4 to 7 days at 75-80°F    

Days to Maturity/First Harvest - 60 days   

Planting Depth - ¼”, transplanting is recommended, start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before planting out, lightly covering seed. Transplant out after danger of frost.   

Spacing - 8-12” apart. Also great for growing in containers. 

Full sun, average soil  

Pinching encourages branching. High temperatures can cause plants to stall, and temporarily decline in growth and bloom. Deadhead regularly to increase blooms.





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