Time to review our Seed Starting Timetable to gain a headstart on your spring garden planning.
Why Start Some Seeds Indoors?
Did you ever wonder why certain varieties of seed are started indoors? It's usually because the days to mature harvest exceed the amount of time between your spring Frost-Free Date and your first Fall Frost Date. By starting these varieties indoors in advance, you will have a four to 14 week jump-start on the development of seedlings. 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, dark nights on their own.
Part One: Seeds to Start Indoors
It's best to consider your seed order in two parts. The first should include the varieties that you must start indoors for transplant into the garden after your Frost-Free Date. You can find your reliable Frost-Free Date by using a nifty chart from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). GO HERE and select your State from the pull down menu. This will generate a PDF file with a list of NOAA data collection sites in your State. In the left column, choose the location nearest or most similar to where you live. Then read across. Use the middle threshold number (32F) and right next to it in the Spring column, will be the 90% probability date. This is your all-important Frost-Free Date.
Eight-Week General Seed-Starting Timetable
Here is the general Seed-Starting Schedule for seeds that should be started eight weeks BEFORE your Frost-Free Date in your Horticultural Zone.
Horticultural Zones 9 & 10: Start seeds indoors in early to mid January.
Horticultural Zone 8: Start seeds indoors in early February.
Horticultural Zone 7: Start seeds indoors in mid February.
Horticultural Zone 6: Start seeds indoors in late February.
Horticultural Zone 5: Start seeds indoors in early March.
Horticultural Zones 1-4: Start seeds indoors in mid to late March.
Vegetable and Herb Seed-Starting Timetable
Here is the Seed-Starting Schedule, listed by seed variety and the number of weeks BEFORE your Frost-Free Date.
Sixteen Weeks: Rosemary, Roselles and Strawberries (for first year crop).
Twelve Weeks: Brussels Sprouts, Cardoons, Celeriac, Celery, Cutting Celery, Parsley Root and Stevia.
Eleven Weeks: Artichokes, Cauliflower and Leeks (transplant out four weeks before the last frost date).
Ten Weeks: Eggplant, Jicama, Lavender and Lemongrass.
Nine Weeks: Broccoli, Cabbage and Kohlrabi (transplant out four weeks before the last frost date).
Eight Weeks: Amaranth, Anise Hyssop, Catnip, Chile Peppers, Chives, Lovage, Marjoram, Oregano, Paprika Peppers, Parsley, Sage, Savory, Sweet Peppers, St. John's Wort, Thyme, Tomatillos and Tomatoes.
Six Weeks: Asparagus, Basil, Echinacea Root, Fennel (herb and vegetable), Ground Cherry, Melons, Okra, Onions, Rhubarb and Shallots.
Four Weeks: Bitter Melon and Cucuzzi Edible Gourds.
Flower Seed-Starting Timetable
These beautiful varieties prefer to be started indoors two to 16 weeks, as specified, BEFORE transplanting out after your Frost-Free Date.
Sixteen Weeks: Purple Bell Vine.
Fourteen Weeks: Verbena.
Twelve Weeks: Datura, Cottage Pinks, Foxglove, Helichrysum Silver Mist, Heliotrope, Hollyhocks, Johnny Jump-Ups, Lobelia, Salvia and Vinca.
Ten Weeks: Hibiscus, Phlox, Victoria Salvia and Red Hot Poker.
Eight Weeks: Alternanthera, Love Lies Bleeding, Baby's Breath, Balsam, Black-eyed Susans, Calamint, Cutting Ageratum, Canterbury Bells, Carnations, Catmint, China Asters, Cinquefoil, Spider Flowers, Coleus, Coreopsis, Euphorbia, Forget-Me-Nots, Gaillardia, Globe Amaranth, Joseph's Coat, Ornamental Gourds, Strawflower, Heuchera, Maltese Cross, Milkweed, Nicotiana, Nigella, Balloon Flower, Pincushion Flower, Snapdragons, Statice, Stock, Black-eyed Susan Vine, Mexican Sunflower and Yarrow.
Six Weeks: Dahlias, Echinacea, Mexican Feather Grass and Queen Anne's Lace.
Five Weeks: Alyssum.
Four Weeks: Celosia and Night Phlox.
Two Weeks: Wild Blue False Indigo.
Midsummer for Fall Use: Ornamental Kale.
Part Two: Seeds to Direct-Sow Easily Outside
The second part of your order should include varieties that prefer to be direct-sown easily into the garden after your Frost-Free Date. These are the vegetables and herbs that magically come to life after you gently nudge them into the warming spring soil for abundant reward: 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, Pea Pods, Pumpkins, Radicchio, Radishes, Rutabagas, Salad Greens, Salsify, Sesame, Shelling Beans, Shiso, Snap Peas, Sorrel, Spearmint, Spinach, Summer Squash, Winged Bean,Winter Squash, Turnip Greens and Turnips.
It is similarly easy to direct-sow a multitude of flowers into the garden. Here is the complete line-up: 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 Daisy, Exotic Love Vine, Forget-Me-Nots, Four O'Clocks, Globe Thistle, Honeywort, Hyacinth Bean Vine, Hyssop, Immortelle, Joseph's Coat, 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, Night Phlox, Ornamental Corn, Ornamental Gourds, Ornamental Grasses, Poppies, Runner Beans, Shasta Daisies, Signet Marigolds, Soapwort, Sunflowers, Sweet Peas,Tassel Flower, Tree Mallow and Zinnias. Each of our direct-sow Habitat Gardens creates floral playgrounds with nectar-rich meals for Butterflies, Bumblebees, Hummingbirds and Songbirds.