How to Create a Seed Starting Schedule

You have decided to start some (or all) of your own garden seeds this year.  You have all of your seed varieties picked out.  You have your supplemental lighting set up. You’re ready to get growing!  But, when?   Follow this guide to help make decisions about when to get seeds started and when to plant them outside.  

 

When should you start?  

Starting too late will result in plants that may not meet their growth potential and in turn not yield well.  Alternatively, starting plants too early will result in leggy, overgrown starters that will not yield well either.  Timing is everything in successful gardening.  The good news is that most plants have a window of at least two weeks for their seed planting times.  Don’t panic if you’ve missed the earliest planting date–you likely still have plenty of time!  

 

Step 1: Determine Your Average Last Frost Date

To determine your average last frost date, check your local university’s extension page.  If you’re in Montana, you can find it here.

  • For Belgrade, MT we will assume June 1st as our average last frost date.  

 

Step 2: Determine the Planting Time for the Seed You Wish to Start

Some plants may be transplanted outside BEFORE the last frost date has passed.  Frost tolerant plants include: cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, kale, cauliflower and broccoli.  These crops can be transplanted out approximately 4 weeks before your average last frost date.  

  • In Belgrade, MT we will assume a May 1st transplanting date for frost tolerant plants

 

Another example are plants that are NOT frost tolerant.  These include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash and some herbs.  You will not want to transplant these crops outside until your average last frost date.

  • In Belgrade, MT we will assume a June 1st transplanting date for plants that are NOT frost tolerant

 

Step 3: Work Backward From Your Planting Out Date

For Frost Tolerant Plants: Let’s say you’re in Belgrade, MT and want to grow “Early Snowball” cauliflower from the Seed Savers Exchange.  The seed package says to start indoors 6-8 weeks before your planting date.  Count back 8 weeks from May 1st.  This gives us a start date of March 1st. 

 

For Frost Intolerant Plants: Let’s say you’re in Belgrade, MT and want to grow “Nadapaneo” sweet peppers from the Seed Savers Exchange.  The seed packet says to start indoors 8-10 weeks before your last frost.  Count back 10 weeks from June 1st.  This gives us a start date of March 15th.  

 

That’s it! You now have a plan of when to sow your cauliflower & pepper seed and when they will be ready to plant outside!

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