when to start seed

A Way to Garden when to start seed calculator

NEED HELP remembering when it’s safe and smart to start your first spring sowings of vegetable, flower and herb seeds indoors and out? This tool calculates when. Begin by entering your final spring frost date on the top right of the chart below. (Don’t know? Search by ZIP Code with the tool at this link.)

The chart dates below suggest earliest springtime sowings, but there is no hard-and-fast rule whether lettuce needs 4 or 6 weeks indoors—or if you never give it a headstart, but simply direct-sow. This is my best guidance, not doctrine; that’s why my website is “A Way to Garden,” not “The Way to Garden.”

Note: Reemay or other protective row covers can “cheat” the earliest transplant dates by as much as 2 weeks, especially helpful with tender things like melons (or insect-prone brassicas and cucurbits).

Many crops (salads, carrots, beets, bush beans, cilantro…) are best sown in succession, a small amount every 2 weeks, starting at the chart date. In some climates, a later sowing timed for fall or winter harvest (e.g., Brussels sprouts) may do better than a spring one, or you can get a second sowing in of peas that you sowed in spring, then pulled.

I’ve added a list of how-to story links below, including some on stashing your harvest. Again: Start by entering your final spring frost date below (mine’s about mid-May). You can print your results using the button under the chart (it will be about 5 pages).

a spring garden calculator

how to sow, harvest and store vegetables

seed-starting gear i use for best results