When to start seeds for the garden
Last week we planned out the garden. If you missed that you can find the post here. Now we are getting our seeds and planning out when they are going to get started. Not all seeds will be started at the same time so I'm going to show you how I break it all down into chunks per week. 

First, go get your seeds. There are plenty of places to get seeds for starting. A local nursery or garden store is more likely to have varieties that are suitable to your growing climate, over big box stores that have the same thing in every store.

When choosing seeds, check the climate rating if it’s on the packet but also look for the days to maturity. In shorter growing seasons like my 4B zone, we have fewer days to grow so I’m not going to pick a long maturity variety, especially for a plant that prefers warmer weather. For many plants the maturity time will be from the date you transplant out, not starting the seeds indoors. For example, I start onion seeds indoors in January but they don't go outside till mid to late march and then the 100 days to maturity starts so I anticipate harvest in late July, early August. 

Now you need to know the date of the last likely spring frost in your area. It's pretty easy to google that to find it out. Once you have it, write your last frost date in spring on the calendar. That is your starting point. 

I will use April 28th as the example since that is my last possible frost date. 

Plant example #1 is pole beans. The package says to soak overnight and direct sow after the last frost. Since the actual date of last frost is an average or estimate, I wrote on my calendar “pole beans?” in mid April to start watching the forecast and will plant them as early as I think I can. If overnight temps are still in the 30’s I will wait till later in the month. 

Plant example #2 is sweet bell pepper. The instructions say 8-12 weeks before the last frost to start them indoors. So I count back 12 weeks from April 28 and I’m on Feb 3, 8 weeks would be March 3. So any time in there I could start the pepper seeds indoors. (This is your window, based on your time and how much space you have for seedlings closer to spring. The earlier you start them the bigger they will be and the more space they will need.)

Broccoli is next. Depending on the variety these can vary a bit. I have a Walthan 29 that can be directly seeded 2-4 weeks before the last frost, and a Batavia that should be started indoors 4-5 weeks before.  My experience is that earlier indoor start is better for my garden. Because I’m in a climate where I might have snow cover on the garden up until April 14th some years, it’s very tricky predicting when the ground could be thawed enough to get the seeds in. If I have an early spring, great, but it’s not always the case so I would prefer to have the plants already started early indoors. So 5 weeks before April 28th is March 17th and that’s when I write broccoli on my calendar. 

Continue down your vegetable list and write each one on the calendar for when to start, based on the package instructions.

The main thing to consider is that starting indoors is to give the seedlings a good head start, but not let them get too big before it’s time to transplant them outside. Seedlings that get too big indoors can deplete nutrients, become root bound in a small container which will stunt growth, and have transplant shock later- which can also slow down a larger transplant and a smaller one will catch up to it.  In these cases, the extra time growing indoors doesn’t benefit you in the production of food. 

You should now have which seeds need to be started each week on your calendar. 

Once you have the dates for each seed on the calendar it's time to get the starting supplies and start planting the seeds based on your calendar. Next week I'll go over my list of supplies and starting seeds. If you are interested in learning all the steps right away check out my course mentioned below. 

If you enjoyed this post and are interested in getting started gardening, I have created a beginner gardening course walking you step by step through starting a garden, seeds and seedlings and transplanting. Click here to snag beta test pricing.


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