When it comes to gardening, timing is everything. It’s important to know when to plant your seeds so that they can be set out into the garden at the optimum time for harvest later on. Plant too soon and young seedlings can be killed by a sudden frost. Plant too late and the plant may not have enough time to grow and develop, depending on the length of the growing season.
Long time gardeners develop a good sense of when to plant based on their knowledge and past experience, but for the beginner gardener, timing can be one of the trickiest things to learn.
Finding Local Frost Date
For hundreds of years, gardeners have used the last frost date to determine when to plant and, depending on the variety of plant, planting will take place a certain number of weeks before or after the frost date. For Northern Hemisphere residents, the last frost date generally occurs sometime in May, but it varies from year to year and across different locations.
Focus on the last frost date in your particular area. To find your local frost date, check out The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Also, sometimes you can find the local frost date via a local television station, newspaper or the local university or county extension service.
How to Use the Seed Starting and Planting Chart
The following chart will help you determine planting dates on any given year. To use it, do the following:
- Write the date of the last frost for your region in the space provided.
- Use a calendar to determine the planting day by adding or subtracting the number of weeks from the date of the last frost.
- Figure out the sow date by subtracting the growth period from the planting date.
- If there is no growth period listed, seeds are to be planted directly into the ground.
Last Frost Date: __________________
|Seed/Plant||Sow Date||Growth Period (# weeks)||Safe Set Out (from last frost)||Planting Date|
|Beans||2 weeks after|
|Beets||2 or 3 weeks before|
|Broccoli||6||2 weeks before|
|Brussel Sprouts||6||3 weeks before|
|Cabbage||6||3 weeks before|
|Carrots||1-2 weeks before|
|Cauliflower||4-6||2 weeks before|
|Collards||4-6||4 weeks before|
|Corn, sweet||2-4||2 weeks after|
|Cucumber||2-4||1-2 weeks after|
|Eggplant||6-9||3 weeks after|
|Greens||soon as soil can be worked|
|Okra||4-6||2-4 weeks after|
|Onion||2-3 weeks before|
|Peas||4-6 weeks before|
|Peppers||8-10||2 weeks after|
|Pumpkin||3-4||2-3 weeks after|
|Radish||3-4 weeks before|
|Spinach||3-6 weeks before|
|Squash||2-4||2 weeks after|
|Tomato||6-8||1 week after|
|Tomatillo||6-8||1 week after|
|Basil||5-7||2 weeks after|
|Chamomile||3-4||0-1 weeks after|
|Parsley||8-10||2 weeks before|
Want to learn more about seed starting and vegetable planting dates?
Check out these helpful resources:
Seed planting chart you can buy that adjusts to your last frost date and gives you results for your area.
Vegetable Planting Guide and Planting Dates. A PDF from Virginia Cooperative Extension.
Planting the Vegetable Garden from University of Minnesota Extension.