When To Start Seeds Indoors (Easy Printable Sowing Plan) (2024)

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This indoor seed starting plan is designed for cold climate gardeners in Canada and the United States. Use this streamlined schedule to sow seeds right on time in the months and weeks leading up to last frost. It also includes recommendations for direct sowing outdoors.

This is part of a series, Indoor Seed Starting for Beginners | Sow Indoors Grow Outdoors, where I walk you through the process from seed to garden. It’s all the information I wish I had when I was getting started.

When To Start Seeds Indoors (Easy Printable Sowing Plan) (1)

Simple Indoor Seed Starting Plan

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This is a selection from the ebook,Seed Starting for Beginners: Sow Inside Grow Outside,sharing everything you need to know to start your own garden plants from seeds indoors.

If you would like the entire ebook with all the printable lists in one handy file,you can save it instantly here.

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This seed sowing plan is intended for cold climate gardeners in the United States and Canada.

The sowing instructions on seed packets tell us how many weeks before our average last frost date seeds should be started indoors. This can range from 3 to 12 weeks or more, depending on the type of plant.

To keep it simple, I created this streamlined sowing system. The seeds are grouped by start times in two-week intervals.

Sowing Groups

You can sow all different seeds using this plan including veggies, herbs, fruits, perennials, and flowering annuals. If you would like to save a copy, it’s available in the Resources section.

Step One

To get started, you need to know your average last frost date.

Find Your Frost Dates & Hardiness Zone

Plant Hardiness Zones | When To Start Seeds Indoors (Easy Printable Sowing Plan) (4) United States | When To Start Seeds Indoors (Easy Printable Sowing Plan) (5) Canada
These are listed on seed packets and plant tags to guide your choices.

Average Frost Dates | Use this calculator at Almanac.com. Enter your city and state or province to find your first and last frost dates and number of frost-free days.

Ecoregion | Learn about the native plant and animal species and environmental conditions specific to your region to better understand why your garden choices matter.

Learn More:

Step Two

Next, find the date closest to your average last frost date on the chart below.

This tells you the approximate date to start each seed group.

So which group do seeds belong to?

Check your seed packet. For example, if the instructions say to sow indoors 10 weeks before last frost, that’s Group 2.

Don’t worry if you are not exactly on schedule—I often get a few weeks behind but it all works out.

Also keep in mind that different varieties have different timing. For example, one type of broccoli might be in Group 2 but another could be in Group 5. Your seed packet will list the required indoor growing time.

When to Start Seeds Indoors

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Here’s an example

My last frost is approximately May 15 which, according to the chart, means seeds that should be started 12 weeks before last frost (Group 1) should be started on (or around) February 15.

Step Three

  • Organize your seeds by their sowing groups (1-5).
  • Mark your calendar and sow a new group every two weeks.

Need to get your seeds organized? This show two smart storage systems.

The printable garden planner is designed to help you map our your garden plans and keep notes just how you like them.

Sample Vegetable Seed Sowing Plan

All seeds are sown indoors unless otherwise noted.

Groups 1 & 2

10-12 Weeks (70-84 Days) Before Last Frost

Not many seeds should be started this far ahead, otherwise the plants will get too big before planting time or struggle with indoor growing conditions.

Exceptions include some special tomatoes, peppers, and onions with long growth cycles.

If your indoor temperature stays steady around 70°F (21°C)—give or take 5 degrees or so, most seeds will germinate just fine.

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  • Tomatoes | Tiny Time, Brandywine Red, Red Oxheart
  • Onions | Ailsa Craig
  • Early broccoli
  • Peppers | Habanero, Scotch Bonnet

Want to grow flowers too? This lists 30 perennial and annual flower seeds to start indoors.

This is also time to start woody herbs from seed including oregano, rosemary, thyme, and sage although growing from cuttings is much faster.

Group 2 & 3

8-10 Weeks (56-70 Days) Before Last Frost

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  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Peppers
  • Scallions
  • Parsley

Group 4 & 5

4-8 Weeks (28-56 Days) Before Last Frost

This is the busy time for indoor seed starting! Most of what we grow can be started at this time.

A few weeks before last frost your local plant nurseries may also begin selling starter plants. If you get some, be prepared to keep them protected from temperature swings until planting time.

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  • Basil
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Celery
  • Celeriac
  • Cucumber
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Melons
  • Tomato
  • Squash – Summer
  • Squash – Winter

Outdoor Seed Sowing Plan

Direct Sowing Vegetable Seeds

When a seed packet says sow directly, it means you are sowing the seed outdoors, usually in its permanent location as some seeds in this group don’t like being moved.

Root crops like carrots are particularly sensitive to transplanting so avoid this if possible.

Other direct sow seeds are fast-growers that have enough time to mature within our frost-free days so there is no need for indoor sowing.

This has tips on direct sowing outdoors in spring in the weeks leading up to last frost.

Use my notes as a general guide and always check your seed packets for exact outdoor sowing time.

6-8 Weeks Before Last Frost (When Soil is Workable)

Have frost cloths handy in case temperatures dip below 30°F (-1°C).

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  • Asparagus
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Onion
  • Radish
  • Turnip
  • Spinach
  • Parsnip

4 Weeks Before Last Frost

Most of these ones like the soil temperature 50°F (10°C) or a bit warmer.

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  • Arugula
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Kohlrabi
  • Swiss Chard
  • Lettuces
  • Leeks
  • Mustard
  • Potatoes

Some cold-tolerant plants that have several true leaves can now be hardened off and then transplanted outdoors at this time. This includes cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, lettuce, and kohlrabi.

2 Weeks Before Last Frost

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  • Beets
  • Broad beans
  • Pumpkin
  • Watermelon

Sow Directly Outdoors After Last Frost

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Once frosts are done, you can begin planting any starter plants you have—whether you grew them yourself or purchased them—but do it carefully. Warmth lovers like tomatoes are really sensitive to temperature drops.

You will harden off all your plants gradually (gradually get them accustomed to outdoor conditions) and have covers ready after planting in case some unusual weather is forecasted.

And, there are lots of seeds to sow directly in the garden (see suggestions below).

While indoor seed starting provides a good jump start, many of the same plants can be started outdoors when conditions are favorable. Plus, when early crops are done, it’s time to plant new ones in their place (known as “succession planting”).

Again, check your seed packets for specific sowing instructions.

  • Amaranth
  • Arugula
  • Broad beans – sow when ground is workable
  • Bush and Pole beans
  • Soya beans
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Celeriac
  • Chickpeas
  • Claytonia
  • Collards
  • Corn
  • Corn salad
  • Cress
  • Cucumbers
  • Endive / Radicchio
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Leaf Lettuce
  • Mescluns
  • Mustard
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Pac choi
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Purslane
  • Quinoa
  • Radish
  • Rutabaga
  • Scallions
  • Spinach
  • Squash, summer
  • Squash, winter
  • Sunflowers
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnips
  • Zucchini

See What to Sow Midsummer Onward for growing into fall and winter.

Resources

Free Printable Seed Sowing Schedule

This seed sowing schedule is free to save to your device.

It’s a PDF document you can view in Adobe Reader and print out if you prefer.

Use it as the starting point and fill in the slots with your seed choices.

I’ve listed the sowing groups and seed examples to get you started.

Empress of Dirt

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Week-by-week Seed Starting Schedule

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Buy Seeds

Ebook

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Seed Starting for Beginners
Sow Inside Grow Outside

by Melissa J. Will

NEW EDITION | Everything you need to get started with indoor seed starting for indoor and outdoor plants. Grow what you want—any time of year!

About This Ebook | Visit Ebook Shop

This ebook is a digital file (PDF format) you save to your device. It is not a physical product.

Buy Now$8 US

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Ebook

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Growing Vegetables
A Weekly Indoor & Outdoor Seed Sowing Plan for Beginners

by Melissa J. Will

About This Ebook | Visit Ebook Shop

This ebook is a digital file (PDF format) you save to your device. It is not a physical product.

Buy Now$6 US

PayPal, Credit Card, Apple Pay

Digital products are not available in EU, UK, and Northern Ireland due to tax regulations.

I hope this has helped organize your seed starting efforts. The most important part is to just get started, learn as you go, and gradually come up with your own best practices.

~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛

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When To Start Seeds Indoors (Easy Printable Sowing Plan) (2024)
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