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.
Creative commons Flickr photo courtesy of boboroshi.
Veggie grower says
A very helpful article for beginning gardeners. Another good source for gardening information when you’re new to an area is the local extension service. My website has a chart showing the last frost dates for many US cities.
I have a simple greenhouse I bought last year and it seems that’s the only way to get anything to grow around here (north of Seattle, WA). Does it make sense to just leave some things in the greenhouse the whole time instead of transplanting outside?
Rodney Bell says
Certain plants you can keep in the greenhouse, if you are planning on tomatoes you will have to hand pollinate them to set tomatoes same with egg plant and peppers or you will not get a good set. In the garden wind and insects will move the pollen from flower to flower. In the green house you will have to do the job. Take and small artist brush with soft hairs and no go to flower to flower lightly touching the anthers and pisteles, the little structures on the inside of the flower. This will have to be done daily when flowering. Or you could set up an oscillating fan on low and leave the door or window open to enhance bees to forage.Any squash, moons, cucumbers will need this procedure.
If you have and day questions you can contact me @ [email protected]. My name is Rodney Bell, a farmer,Agronomist, and Plant Nutritionist.
i can;t get my tomato seeds to grow right they just tall and spinly and die in the house thanks
Kathy Kelley says
I just wish I knew when the last frost will take place
Farmer’s Almanac has a website, http://m.almanac.com/content/frost-chart-united-states/zipcode/
Just enter your zip code.
can;t seem to find way to get my seeds started without them growing long and spinly with only 2 leaves ????
They need more light closer to them and adjusted as the seedlings grow. They get tall and spindly because of low light and they grow towards the light
Deborah Moyer says
So what good does ‘fromdoctopdf’ do me? There is nothing there about a planting chart.
Victoria Michaels says
I had a small first garden last year and learned a lot. My question: I have a flower bed where I get volunteers and should I till there? Will it ruin the volunteers? I also have places where I grew morning glories for privacy. There was a ton of seeds. I harvested some, there is still a ton left. I want these to grow. If I till, will that ruin the volunteers? Thank you. I’m new to this. This year I’m going to plant a huge garden!
In Our Nature says
I would not recommend tilling the garden. It disturbs healthy soil structure and encourages weeds to grow. If you want to encourage volunteer plants then just add compost and mulch to the bed then let them do their thing. 🙂
In Our Nature says
This is a really helpful chart! I can’t wait for the ground to thaw! Still another month to go 🙁