How important is it *really* to soak your seeds overnight before planting? We're growing baby lettuce and 12 different herbs in a container garden.
It depends on what you are planting. I have never soaked small seeds such as lettuce, but I would imagine that doing so would make the wet seeds awfully hard to plant evenly.
I think all I ever have soaked are nasturtiums and peas (both sweet peas and peas for eating). Maybe morning glory when I grew it a few years ago?
I've read about soaking tomato and cucumber seeds, but never done it myself and mine have always germinated really quickly. I think most people who soak those do the wet paper towel in a ziplock bag methods of germination.
It will usually be mentioned on a seed packet if a seed usually needs to be soaked. You can also google specific plant names with growing from seed or starting from seed or something like for tips on how to get the best result from each. Some need light to germinate while others need it dark, and some things like snapdragons do better if the seeds are put in the freezer for a day or so before being planted.
I never bothered soaking seeds before and I haven't had any problems. However, we just did a bunch of science experiments with soaked seed and I am amazed at how fast they sprouted! I plan on doing it this year for large seeds, but not for small ones. The small ones (in our experiments) just wanted to stick to our fingers after being soaked. That would be annoying if I was trying to plant the garden.
I don't think I've really soaked any seeds. I think sometimes you need to scarify (is that the right word?) like apricot/peach/other fruit type seeds, but even then... we've had fun sprouting our own randomness around here, but just in plain dirt. Too lazy for soaking - easier to let the kids scatter the lettuce seeds wherever out in the garden.
(If you're curious, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2010, and yes, it's a busy house)