When to Start Seedlings

One of the biggest mistakes gardeners make is starting seedlings too soon.

I know gardeners in Los Angeles who harvest tomatoes in January, but north of USDA Zone 6 you shouldn’t even think of starting tomatoes until February.

In USDA Zone 4 we start ours in two batches: A few in mid-March, and a larger group around the first of April. If the weather breaks early, the March planting is worth it; but if spring is sow, the early seedlings just get tossed out, as they are too big when planting season arrives.

That’s why it’s a good idea to make two sowings of seed, a week or two apart. If something happens to one set, you’ve got the backup. With two plantings, a week before and a week after the theoretically ideal planting date, you’re ready either way.

TIMING CHART FOR STARTING SEEDLINGS

Group 1
Start 10 to 12 weeks before the frost-free date.

Eggplants
Peppers
Parsley
Onions
Leeks
Perennial Herbs
Celeriac

Group 2
Start 6 to 8 weeks before the frost-free date.

Tomatoes
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Broccoli
Basil
Lettuce
Endive

Group 3
Start 2 to 4 weeks before the frost-free date.

Dill
Melons
Beans
Brussels Sprouts
Squash
Lettuce
Annual Herbs

Adapted from Straight-Ahead Organic,by Shepherd Ogden. Copyright (c)1992, 1999 by Shepherd Ogden. Reprinted by permission of Chelsea Green Publishing Company.
Adapted from Straight-Ahead Organic,by Shepherd Ogden.

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31 comments

Marianne Good
Past Member 2 years ago

Thanks.

Aud Nordby
Aud nordby2 years ago

ty

Lydia Price

Thank you for sharing. Good information is classic and timeless.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra2 years ago

Thank you Annie, for Sharing this!

Diane L.
Diane L.2 years ago

How about just reading the advice on seed packets? Has anyone else noticed this is a FIFTEEN YEAR OLD article? Yeah, folks..........put out in 1999. How's that for current information?

Winn Adams
Winn Adams2 years ago

Thanks

Megan Martin
Megan Martin2 years ago

YAY!! Can't wait for Spring! Articles like this get me excited to get out in the dirt!

aj E.
aj E.2 years ago

thanks - can't wait!

Harish S.
Harish S.2 years ago

Thanks for sharing this article.

Kerstin S.
Kerstin Strobl2 years ago

Thank you for sharing