When To Plant Seeds For Your Vegetable Garden

Timing is everything when it comes to planting vegetable seeds. Follow our planting schedule to get the most out of your vegetable garden.

Seed starting supplies

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Timing is everything, especially when it comes to planting seeds for your vegetable garden. One critical part of home gardening is knowing which crops you can direct seed into the garden, when to do it, and which crops should only be started indoors before transplanting to the garden.

Different crops vary considerably in tolerance of cold, frost, and heat. This makes knowing when to plant essential to having a successful garden. We’ve rounded up all the information you need to get your plants and seeds in the ground at the right time for a productive growing season.  

TIPS FOR WHEN TO START SEEDS

  1. The suggested dates are guidelines. You may need to adjust timing depending on weather. Don’t stress if you can’t follow these guidelines exactly. Planting a week or two later than suggested is totally fine, but planting earlier is a bit riskier. 
  2. We highly recommend row covers for a little extra frost protection early in the spring. Even crops that can tolerate low temperatures will grow faster under row covers. And row covers provide the best organic method for controlling insect pests too! Check out our post on row covers to learn more about why we would never garden without them. 
  3. For an early harvest of cold tolerant crops, build hoop tunnels. Check out our season extending post to see how hoop tunnels allow us to harvest salad greens in Colorado by late May.
  4. Our guidelines below provide the earliest recommended planting dates for different crops. But, that doesn’t mean you have to stop planting after that! Learn about succession planting and which crops can be planted continuously throughout the season here. This is one of the best ways to maximize yields in a small garden. 
  5. Soil temperature is one of the most important factors that determines when you should sow seeds or transplant your plants into the garden. We wanted to make things easy for you, so the guidelines below are based on planting date. But, if you really want to go hardcore and check your soil temperature with a soil thermometer, check out the table of optimal temperatures for germination at the end of this post.   

PLANTING GUIDELINES

Some crops can be direct seeded in early spring, while others should not be planted until up to six weeks later. Still others do best when started indoors and transplanted to the garden after several weeks. To make it easy, we’ve divided crops up accordingly. The best way to find out your average last frost date is from a local garden center. OR search by zip code

VERY EARLY CROPS

These crops can handle cold temperatures (mid to low 20s), frost, and snow, although it never hurts to protect them with row covers if cold weather is expected. Sow seeds for these crops 6 weeks before your last frost (or as soon as soil can be worked): 

  • Peas 
  • Spinach 
  • Onions (sets or dormant plants; or start seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before last frost) 

EARLY CROPS

These crops can handle moderately cold temperatures (upper 20s or possibly lower), some frost and snow. We recommend planting seeds for these crops directly in the garden 4 weeks before last frost, but if you can protect them with row covers, they can be planted as early as 6 weeks before last frost.   

  • Lettuce 
  • Beets 
  • Radish 
  • Kale 
  • Kohlrabi 
  • Arugula 
  • Potatoes 
  • Cilantro  
  • Dill  
  • Parsley 
  • Asian greens (e.g. tatsoibok choy, etc.) 
  • Collards 
  • Turnips 
  • Carrots 
  • Chives 
  • Chard 

LATE CROPS

These crops do not tolerate even light frost and cold temperatures may stunt their development. We recommend waiting until after the last frost date to sow seeds for these crops. If spring weather is unseasonably cool, wait until the weather warms up.   

  • Beans 
  • Squash and pumpkin 
  • Cucumber 
  • Corn 
  • Melons 
  • Most annual herbs (best to start indoors) 

PLANTS BEST STARTED INDOORS AND TRANSFERRED TO GARDEN 4 WEEKS BEFORE LAST FROST

These crops can tolerate cold, but require a long growing season. They do best if started indoors 6-10 weeks before last frost. Broccoli can also be direct seeded into the garden in June for a fall harvest.  

  • Cabbage 
  • Cauliflower 
  • Broccoli 
  • Celery 

PLANTS BEST STARTED INDOORS AND TRANSFERRED TO GARDEN AFTER ALL DANGER OF FROST HAS PAST

These crops require a long growing season, but cannot tolerate even a light frost if left unprotected. If you have a short growing season or just want earlier fruit, take a look at our post describing how we get our tomatoes in the ground several weeks before last frost.   

  • Tomatoes 
  • Peppers 
When to plant seeds outdoors and indoors
Optimal Soil Temperature For Seed Germination

first image image via depositphotos