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When to Start Garden Seeds

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Whether you’re a newer gardener or one who is trying a new seed variety for the spring garden, how do you know when to start garden seeds? This is one of the most common questions I get asked, and I have an answer for you!

There’s so much information out there about starting a garden including:

But what about WHEN to start with all of those seed packages you bought for this season? Well, there are a few details you need to know first. See the video at the bottom for my full break down of when to start seeds!

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Find your last/first frost date

Knowing your zone is helpful, but actually learning your first and late anticipated frost date will help the most, especially for the spring and fall/winter garden.

Most seed packages have vital information on the back about when to start the seeds. For spring/summer seeds, these dates revolve around your last anticipated frost, or the date when you’re likely to be out of harm of frosts killing your plants.

You can find your area’s last anticipated frost by checking out the Farmer’s Almanac site and entering your zip code. The last anticipated frost is only an approximate date based on your area’s history of frosts.

Knowing your first frost date is also important for planting your fall/winter vegetable garden. Seed packages will state how many weeks to plant particular fall crops before the first fall frost.

There are many crops, including brassicas, that actually benefit from a few frosts in the fall and winter. Frosts can sweeten their flavor.

savoy cabbage with frost
Cabbage, planted at the end of summer, can benefit from frosts in fall and winter

Read the Seed Package

Though some seed companies give more information than others, there is valuable information to be had regarding when to plant particular seeds. The back of the package should tell you several things at minimum:

  • Start date (or start conditions like warm soil) for direct sowing
  • Start date for indoor seed starting
  • Days to germination
  • Days to harvest
  • Ideal soil conditions
  • Plant spacing
Back of an MiGardener seed package

Smaller companies like MiGardener and Baker Creek Seed seem to have more abundant information that your seed packages from big box stores. If you’ve been planting a garden for decades, then you might not need as much info.

If you’re just starting out, then I recommend looking into a good quality seed company. I have a good list here of great seed companies, and many of their free catalogs have a wealth of planting advice in them, too.

Consider growing conditions

Once you checked the back of the seed package, you’ll have most of the information you need to determine when to start your garden seeds. You’ll then need to decide if you’ll begin the seeds indoors, direct sow once outdoor temps allow, or try using a cold frame or winter sowing methods.

Any of these work well for starting seeds at home (and have I mentioned how much cheaper it is to buy seeds versus plants?) I have a full post about how to save money with seeds and plants.

Here are some helps for all of these methods of seed starting:

So get those seeds ready to plant and arm yourself with knowledge for a successful growing season!

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