It’s that time of year! Seeds are arriving or soon to be ordered, there’s a rare hint of spring, and gardeners are starting to get the itch. As those seed packets start showing up in the mail or coming home from the store with you, there’s a very important question that needs to be answered. When do I plant them? Well, I’m going to tell you when to sow seeds indoors. Sort of.
See, you can jump on Pinterest or Google and see these nifty charts of “when to plant.” But guess what? Unless they happen to have similar frost dates and climate, it may not actually be helpful. Down South, they can plant much earlier than the northern Midwest!
Why? Well, a lot of it is about the last frost date for where you live. Here, the average last frost is around April 6, give or take a few days depending which weather station I’m looking at (twenty minutes north is April 9th, ten minutes south is April 6th). But where you live, yours may be in February, or May, or something totally different!
There are some vegetables that can withstand mild to moderate frosts, and a few that can even withstand heavy frosts. But not as babies. These varieties are the ones that are good in a winter garden, and even then they’re started in late summer/early fall so they have some growth before first frost hits. When we’re spring planting, we don’t want a tender new plant annihilated by a freeze!
Here’s what you do.
Figuring it Out
Then go sit down with your seed pack and read the planting instructions. Please note that not all plants like to be sown indoors and transplanted. Root vegetables like carrots especially do best being direct sown. Usually the instructions for a vegetable that will be planted indoors will say something like, “Plant indoors 3-4 weeks before transplanting, and plant out after last frost.” Or perhaps, “Plant indoors 8 weeks before transplanting and plant out one week after last frost.” You get the picture.
Alright, so now you get to do a little counting. A calendar will be super helpful at this point. Since my last frost date is April 6, and I can transplant a vegetable immediately after this date, I’ll count back the number of weeks suggested on the packet. That’s when to plant indoors. If the plant is very sensitive to even a light frost and I need to plant it out even later than the 6th to be safe, I’ll count on transplanting at the end of April and count back from then instead.
Wow, that’s a lot to keep track of!
Or is it?
It seems like it, but simply writing down the information you need for each variety of seed will simplify it immensely. Then every week you just look at your chart, and you’ll know what to plant! As your last frost date approaches, the same thing will happen for transplanting.
To make this super simple for you (and for me, I admit), I’ve created a free printable for you. This should fit on normal letter size paper; check “fit to page” if it’s going off the edges on the print preview.
Simply write down the information for every kind of seed you have, even different varieties of the same kind of vegetable; some have longer or shorter days to maturity, so will need more or less time even though they’re varieties of the same vegetable. If you have seeds that are direct sown, you can write that in the “sowing instructions,” write in the sowing dates, and leave the transplant dates blank.
I’ve got my tomatoes, rhubarb, and a few herbs in the soil as of yesterday. How about you? Go get planting!!