One of the most-asked questions we get here at Kitchen Garden Seeds is, "When should I start my seeds?" It's a good question, and the short answer is, "It depends." It depends on your climate, the type of seeds you're sowing, and more. We thought we'd lay it all out for you in this post, which will help when you're planning your seed order.
Why Start Some Seeds Indoors?
Did you ever wonder why certain seeds are started indoors? It's usually because the days to mature harvest exceed the amount of time between your spring Last Frost Date and your fall First Frost Date. By starting these varieties indoors in advance, you will have a four to 14 week jump-start. Some varieties like to be started indoors so that you can really pamper them with consistent moisture and warmer temperatures. Real warmth-lovers, like Eggplants, Peppers and Tomatoes, like to be coddled with 24-7 grow lights until they are 'toddler' seedlings, when they will be able to handle cooler nights outdoors on their own.
Many other seeds, however, are perfectly fine sown directly into your garden. These seeds are eager to germinate, easy to grow and quick to mature. Cool-weather-lovers like Lettuces and Spinach can be sown before your spring Last Frost Date, while tender crops like Sunflowers, Nasturtiums and Pumpkins prefer to be sown after all danger of frost has passed.
Find Your Spring Last Frost Date
Your Last Frost Date is the cornerstone of your spring seed-starting endeavors. It is when you can begin transitioning the seedlings you started indoors to the outdoors, and when you can safely begin to direct-sow seeds.
Find your reliable Last Frost Date using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at the National Gardening Association's website HERE. Enter your zip code. This will generate two charts: "In the Fall" and "In the Spring". Use the 32° row in the spring chart and find the date in the 50% column. This is your all-important average Last Frost Date.
Once you mark your Last Frost Date on your calendar, you can count backwards to determine when to start your seeds. For example, if your Last Frost Date is April 15th and your Tomato seeds should be started eight weeks before being transferred outdoors, you'll sow them indoors around February 19th.
Indoor Seed Starting Schedules
These veggies, herbs and flowers prefer to be sown indoors. They are listed by the number of weeks they should be sown BEFORE your Last Frost Date.
Vegetables & Herbs
- 16 Weeks: Rosemary, Strawberries.
- 12 Weeks: Brussels Sprouts, Cardoons, Celeriac, Celery, Cutting Celery, Parsley Root, Roselles, Stevia.
- 11 Weeks: Artichokes, Cauliflower, Leeks.
- 10 Weeks: Eggplant, Jicama, Lavender, Lemongrass.
- 9 Weeks: Broccoli, Cabbage, Kohlrabi.
- 8 Weeks: Amaranth, Anise Hyssop, Catnip, Chile Peppers, Chives, Lovage, Marjoram, Oregano, Paprika Peppers, Parsley, Sage, Savory, Sweet Peppers, St. John's Wort, Thyme, Tomatillos, Tomatoes, Winged Bean.
- 6 Weeks: Asparagus, Basil, Chickpeas, Echinacea Root, Fennel, Ground Cherries, Melons, Okra, Onions, Peanuts, Rhubarb, Sesame, Shallots.
- 4 Weeks: Bitter Melon.
- 16 Weeks: Purple Bell Vine.
- 14 Weeks: Verbena.
- 12 Weeks: Datura, Cottage Pinks, Foxglove, Helichrysum, Heliotrope, Hollyhocks, Johnny Jump-Ups, Lobelia, Salvia, Vinca.
- 10 Weeks: Hibiscus, Phlox, Victoria Salvia.
- 8 Weeks: Alternanthera, Balloon Flower, Baby's Breath, Balsam, Black-eyed Susans, Black-Eyed Susan Vine, Calamint, Canterbury Bells, Carnations, Catmint, China Asters, Coleus, Coreopsis, Cutting Ageratum, Euphorbia, Forget-Me-Nots, Gaillardia, Globe Amaranth, Heuchera, Immortelle, Love Lies Bleeding, Maltese Cross, Mexican Sunflower, Milkweed, Nicotiana, Nigella, Pincushion Flower, Red Hot Pokers, Snapdragons, Spider Flowers, Statice, Stock, Strawflower, Yarrow.
- 6 Weeks: Candytuft, Coneflowers, Dahlias, Mexican Feather Grass.
- 5 Weeks: Alyssum.
- 4 Weeks: Celosia, Night Phlox.
- 2 Weeks: Wild Blue False Indigo.
Seeds to Direct-Sow Outside
Many of these varieties can be be direct-sown into the garden after your spring Last Frost Date, though cool-weather crops marked with an asterisk (*) can be sown outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring.
Vegetables & Herbs
*Arugula | *Asian Greens | Beans | *Beets | Belgian Endive | Borage | *Broccoli Raab | *Brown Mustard Seed | *Carrots | Chamomile | *Swiss Chard | Chervil | Chicories | *Chinese Broccoli | *Chinese Cabbage | *Claytonia | *Collard Greens | Coriander | Sweet Corn | *Cress | Cucumbers | *Daikon Radishes | *Dandelion Greens | Dill | Edamame | *Endive | *Escarole | Fava Beans | Fennel | *Kale | *Kohlrabi | Lemon Balm | *Lettuce | Lima Beans | *Mache | Melons | *Minutina | *Mizuna | *Mustard Greens | Orach | *Pak choi | *Parsnips | *Peas | Pumpkins | Purslane | *Radicchio | *Radishes | *Rutabagas | *Salad Greens | *Salsify | Shelling Beans | Shiso | *Sorrel | Spearmint | *Spinach | Summer Squash | Winter Squash | *Turnip Greens | *Turnips
Alyssum | *Bachelor's Buttons | Bee Balm | Bells of Ireland | Blazing Stars | *Blue Flax | Browallia | *Calendula | Cardinal Climber | Cathedral Bells | Chinese Lanterns | Climbing Snapdragons | Columbine | Coreopsis | Corn Cockle | Cosmos | Creeping Zinna | *Delphinium | English Daisies | Exotic Love Vine | Forget-Me-Nots | Four O'Clocks | *Globe Thistle | Honeywort | Hyacinth Bean Vine | Hyssop | Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate | Lace Flower | Larkspur | Love-in-a-Puff | Love Lies Bleeding | Lupine | Marigolds | Mexican Sunflowers | Mignonette | Money Plant | Moonflowers | Morning Glories | Moss Rose | Nasturtiums | Nigella | Ornamental Gourds | Ornamental Grasses and Corn | *Poppies | Queen Anne's Lace | Runner Beans | *Shasta Daisies | Signet Marigolds | Soapwort | Sunflowers | *Sweet Peas | Tassel Flower | Tree Mallow | Zinnias