Figuring out when to start seeds indoors is difficult, especially when you’re new to seed starting. In this post I will show you exactly how to figure out when to start planting seeds, and help you create your own personal seed planting schedule.
When should you start seeds indoors? This is one of the most common questions I get from new gardeners.
There are lots of different seed planting charts out there, and they can be helpful to use as a guide. But, there are so many factors involved in the timing of starting seeds that it’s best to create your own personal seed starting timetable.
Why Do We Need A Seed Starting Timetable?
Timing is very important when it comes to starting seeds indoors under lights. That’s because if you start your seeds too early, you could end up with weak, leggy seedlings that won’t survive the transition to the garden in the spring.
But if you start your seeds too late, the seedlings won’t be mature enough for transplanting into the garden by spring.
It takes a little practice, but don’t worry – in time you will be able to create your own seed planting schedule so you know exactly when to start your favorite seeds. Let’s walk through the steps together…
Figuring Out When To Start Seeds Indoors
The biggest problem with figuring out what to plant when is that every seed is different.
Some seeds are fast growers, and it will only take a few weeks for the seedlings to grow large enough to be transplanted into the garden. But other seeds are very slow to germinate, and it takes much longer for the seedlings to grow.
Plus, every growing zone has different seed starting dates. So there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” seed starting chart.
So how can you figure out the best planting dates for YOUR seeds?
Finding Your Best Planting Dates For Seeds
Since every seed is different, and some have special planting instructions, we need to rely on the seed packets for help.
Unfortunately, many seed companies give us very vague planting details (or no instructions at all), which is super annoying.
But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. If you’re just starting out, you can follow these simple guidelines to figure out a basic seed starting timetable…
Step 1: Find the seed starting dates on the seed packet – First, read the instructions on each of your seed packets to find the recommended planting dates for each type of seed.
Most seed packets will give you recommendations for when to start seeds indoors.
Step 2: Sort your seed packets by best planting dates – Take all of the seed packets you plan to start indoors and sort them by the recommended seed starting dates shown on the packet.
Generally, it will be something like “4 to 6 weeks before average last frost”, or “6 to 8 weeks…” etc.
Once you have all of your seed packets sorted into piles, store them this way so when it’s time for planting seeds, you know exactly which ones to start at the same time.
But wait… what if your seed packets don’t have any recommended planting dates on them?
General Guideline For When To Plant Garden Seeds Indoors
Unfortunately, not all companies include seed starting dates on the packets for you (I guess they like to keep us guessing).
So if your seed packet is less than helpful, and you can’t find recommended seed planting dates online, then you should plan to start those seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the average last frost date in your growing zone.
The average last frost date is different for each growing zone, and it’s important to know what yours is. If you don’t know the average last frost date in your growing zone, visit your local garden center and ask them, or look it up online.
For example, our average last frost date here in growing zone 4b (Minneapolis, MN) is May 15th.
So, I would count backwards 6 to 8 weeks (which would be March 20th – April 3rd), and that’s when I would start planting seeds indoors.
Related Post: 17 Easiest Seeds To Start Indoors
How To Create Your Own Seed Planting Schedule
Once you figure out when to start each type of seed indoors, then you can work to create your own seed planting schedule to make your life easier year after year.
When the time comes for you to start planting seeds indoors, keep track of the dates you planted each type of seed, and make a note of when the seeds started to grow.
You should also keep a record of how well each of the seeds grew. Did the seedlings grow long and leggy before you could move them outside? Did they outgrow their containers? Or maybe they were too small to plant into the garden in the spring.
Write it all down.
This will give you a good start on your custom seed planting schedule. Then next year you can make the necessary adjustments.
Any seedlings that became too large or leggy before you were able to move them outside should be started indoors a week or two later next year.
On the other hand, seedlings that were too small to transplant into the garden should be started a couple weeks earlier next year.
Once you get the hang of knowing when to plant garden seeds indoors, you will have your own custom seed planting schedule to go by year after year.
Also, you’ll begin to see patterns for certain types of vegetable and flower seeds, and know which seeds to plant at the same time – and this will make starting seeds much easier for you.
Related Post: Tips For Starting Seeds Indoors For Beginners
There are tons of garden seed planting guides online that can be helpful to give you an idea of what to plant when. But there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” indoor seed starting chart! It’s best to create your own custom seed starting timetable that you can use year after year.
If you need more, and you want to learn all there is to know about easily growing all of your own seeds, then my online Seed Starting Course is exactly what you need! This self-paced, comprehensive online course will walk you through every detail, step-by-step. Enroll and get started today!
Otherwise, if you just want a refresher about how to start you seeds indoors, then my Starting Seeds Indoors eBook would be perfect! It’s a quick-start guide that will have you up and running in no time.
More Information About Growing Seeds
- Seed Starting Equipment and Supplies
- How To Test The Viability Of Seeds With An Easy Seed Germination Test
- Seed Starting Peat Pellets Vs. Soil: Which Should You Use And Why?
- How To Make Your Own DIY Seed Starting Mix (with recipe!)
Have you created your own seed planting schedule so you know when to start seeds indoors? Share your experiences and tips in the comments section below.