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Sage Garden Blog

Timing your seed starting...

If there is one variable gardeners can control, that makes a huge difference to seed-starting success, it is timing. Some seeds develop slowly but surely while others race out of the gate. Most outdoor crops - whether veggies, herbs or flowers - do best when they are grown up to about a 3" - 4" pot size timed to match the local safe planting out date. If seedlings become overgrown ahead of the planting out date they are often difficult to maintain indoors (which is stressful!) and can also be challenging to transplant without damage when the time comes. On the flip side, some selections require a long growing time to be able to flower or fruit in our short summer season, so it is important to get these going as required.

As a backdrop to the biological needs of seeds and seedlings is the cold-climate gardener's innate need to do something plant-y as winter wears on... clearly, a common reason for many gardeners sowing a little ahead of themselves. So, hopefully, our simple guide to planning your seed starting dates helps you get going with something appropriate and satisfying for each week or two as we head towards spring!

Seed starting recommendations...

Variety

Timing

Notes

Annual Flowers

March or later

Some varieties do really well direct seeded, for example calendula and nigella

Artichoke

February thru early March

 

Basil

April or later

Basil is very sensitive to lower winter daylight, and does so much better when started under lights or direct seeded outdoors in early June

Beans

Direct seed, early June

Some  gardeners enjoy starting beans in bio-degradable pots indoors, about two weeks before planting  out date

Beets

Direct seed, early June

 

Bell Peppers

March

Bell  pepper do not need to be started as early as hot peppers

Cabbage & other Brassicas

Early May

Direct seeding is an option for many  brassicas as well, particularly leafy types

Carrots

Direct seed, late May onwards

Carrots must be direct seeded as they do not transplant

Celery

March

 

Cilantro & Dill

Direct seed, early June

You’ll get so much ore out of a pack of direct seeded cilantro or dill vs. starter plants!

Corn

Direct seed, early June

Some people do start corn indoors a couple of weeks before planting out time

Cucumbers

Early May

Start some indoors in early May, but also consider direct seeding a second crop outdoors in June

Eggplant

February or early March

These  really benefit from being started early indoors

Hot Peppers

February or early March

These  really benefit from being started early indoors

Leaf Greens

Direct seed, Mid-May onwards

Direct seeding outdoors is best  unless growing as baby greens indoors

Leeks

February or early March

 

Melons

Mid-May

Avoid starting melons too early indoors as they become difficult to maintain in starter pots

Onions

February or early March

These  really benefit from being started early indoors

Parsley

March or later

 

Peas

Direct seed early May

Peas are very cold tolerant and  you may find success planting in thawed soil (pots) outdoors as early as April

Perennial Flowers

February or early March

Generally, perennials will not flower their first year unless started early indoors and also develop more slowly compared to most annuals

Perennial Herbs

Early March

Oregano, thyme, sage, lemon balm etc

Poppies

Direct seed early May

These really require outdoor sowing during cool, early spring weather

Pumpkins and Squash

Early May

Avoid starting pumpkins and squash too early indoors as they become difficult to maintain in starter pots

Radish

Direct seed early May

Direct seeding is the  only way to go… and is very easy!

Shallots

February or early March

These  really benefit from being started early indoors

Sunflowers

Mid-May, or direct seeded in early June

Large type sunflowers are best direct seeded, while dwarf types can be started indoors  or direct seeded

Sweet Peas

Mid-April, or direct seeded in early May

Sweet peas seeds are direct seeded while temperatures are cool, in early spring

Tomatillo / Ground Cherry

Early April

These can be started a little later than tomatoes

Tomato

Late March to Mid-April

Starting any earlier than the third week of March often leads to overgrown, floppy plants that are a challenge to care for

Wildflowers

February or early March

Generally, perennials will not flower their first year unless started early indoors and also develop more slowly compared to most annuals; fall is another ideal time to sow  these


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  • Hi Jim – Thanks for your comment! The information presented here is geared towards gardeners in lower USDA zones, where the safe planting out date is likely between early May and the first week of June. Where are you located?

    Dave
  • The schedule for starting seeds is very helpful…is the recommended schedule the same for every zone???

    Jim Swettenham

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