Seed-Starting 101 : Part 1 of 6 : Crafting a Seed Starting Schedule

by Doug Muller

Nothing welcomes spring like a cold frame full of seedlings. Nothing welcomes spring like a cold frame full of seedlings.

Crafting a Seed-Starting Schedule

From the soft comfort of a fireside rocking chair, your garden holds endless possibilities. You can picture—taste, even—the sweet tang of your certain bushels of tomatoes, the crisp crunch of cucumbers, the melting delicateness of a pile of stir-fried snow peas. All of this dreaming is essential, but February moves along, and wispy garden dreams must solidify into concrete garden plans if you hope to bring your visions to life.

There are many garden plans to be made—questions of fencing, fertility, and size, among countless others—but one of the most vital is planning your schedule for starting seeds.

The key information for building your plan is your last spring frost date. This date is the average last day that gardeners can expect a frost to visit their garden. Here in the Mid-Hudson Valley, this date is about May 10th. However, this date differs significantly throughout the state (see this link from Cornell for an enlightening map), and it is also often refuted by actual fact: in both 2008 and 2009, for example, much of the Hudson Valley experienced a late May frost strong enough to damage frost-tender crops significantly. Still, we need a starting point, and the last frost date is it. (Outside NYS? Check with your regional extension office to find your last frost date.)

Below is a rough schedule of spring seed-starting tasks. It is not meant to be prescriptive; it just lists sowing and transplanting opportunities for each of the main spring planting weeks. At a glance, you can see what you should do in any given week of your spring season—it's helpful when prioritizing to know that if you don't sow a certain crop one week you've still got time the next.

Sowing "Under Protection" means in a cold frame, greenhouse, or indoors with supplemental lighting. "Direct Sow" means placing the seeds directly into prepared garden beds. "Transplant" refers to the date to set seedlings grown in protected conditions out into the open garden.

Spring Seed Starting Calendar

For planting dates into summer, check out our Succession Sowing Calendar. For planning your fall garden, check out our Fall Garden Seed Starting Schedule.

Weeks Relative to Last Frost Mid-Hudson Date Seed-Starting Opportunities
14 weeks before Feb 7th
Under Protection: Onions, Leeks, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives, Celery, Celeriac, Artichoke
13 weeks before Feb 14th
Under Protection: Onions, Leeks, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives, Celery, Celeriac, Artichoke
12 weeks before Feb 21st
Under Protection: Onions, Leeks, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives, Celery, Celeriac, Artichoke
11 weeks before Feb 28th
Under Protection: Onions, Leeks, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives, Celery, Celeriac, Artichoke
10 weeks before March 6th
Under Protection: Arugula, Spring Raab, Parsley, Onions, Leeks, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives, Celery, Celeriac, Artichoke
9 weeks before March 13th
Under Protection: Lettuce, early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Broccoli, Arugula, Spring Raab, Kohlrabi, Parsley, Onions, Leeks, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives, Celery, Celeriac
Direct Sow: Spinach, Peas, Arugula, Spring/Summer Onions
8 weeks before March 20th
Under Protection: Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Chard, Lettuce, early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Kohlrabi, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
Direct Sow: Radishes, Spinach, Peas, Arugula, Spring/Summer Onions
7 weeks before March 27th
Under Protection: Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Chard, Lettuce, early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Kohlrabi, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
Direct Sow: Spring Raab, Radishes, Spinach, Peas, Arugula, Spring/Summer Onions
6 weeks before April 3rd
Under Protection: Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Chard, Lettuce, early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Kohlrabi, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
Direct Sow: Spring Raab, Radishes, Spinach, Peas, Arugula, Spring/Summer Onions
5 weeks before April 10th
Under Protection: Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Chard, Lettuce, early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Kohlrabi, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
Direct Sow: Lettuce, Carrots, Parsnips, Spring Raab, Radishes, Spinach, Peas, Arugula, Spring/Summer Onions
Transplant: Lettuce, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
4 weeks before April 17th
Under Protection: Chard, Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Lettuce, early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Kohlrabi, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
Direct Sow: Chard, Beets, Lettuce, Carrots, Parsnips, Spring Raab, Radishes, Spinach, Peas, Arugula, Spring/Summer Onions
Transplant: Lettuce, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
3 weeks before April 24th
Under Protection: Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant, early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
Direct Sow: Chard, Beets, Lettuce, Carrots, Parsnips, Spring Raab, Radishes, Spinach, Peas, Arugula, Spring/Summer Onions
Transplant: early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Kohlrabi, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Lettuce, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
2 weeks before May 1st
Under Protection: Okra, Cucumbers, Melons, Squash, main season Cabbage, Tomatoes, Tatsoi, Bok Choy
Direct Sow: Chard, Beets, Corn, Lettuce, Carrots, Parsnips, Radishes, Spinach, Peas, Arugula
Transplant: early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Kohlrabi, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Lettuce, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
1 week before May 8th
Under Protection: Okra, Cucumbers, Melons, Squash, main season Cabbage, Tomatoes, Tatsoi, Bok Choy
Direct Sow: Chard, Beets, Beans, Corn, Lettuce, Carrots, Parsnips, Radishes, Spinach, Peas, Arugula, Spring Raab
Transplant: early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Kohlrabi, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Lettuce, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
Week of last frost May 15th
Under Protection: Okra, Cucumbers, Melons, Squash, main season Cabbage, Tomatoes
Direct Sow: Beans, Corn, Lettuce, Carrots, Parsnips, Arugula
Transplant: Tomatoes, early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Kohlrabi, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Lettuce, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
1 week after May 22nd
Under Protection: Okra, Melons
Direct Sow: Cucumbers, Squash, Beans, Corn, Lettuce, Carrots, Parsnips, Arugula
Transplant: Cucumbers, Squash, Peppers, Eggplant, Tomatoes, Kale, Collards, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
2 weeks after May 29th
Direct Sow: Okra, Melons, Cucumbers, Squash, Beans, Corn, Lettuce, Carrots, Parsnips, Arugula
Transplant: Okra, Melons, Cucumbers, Squash, Peppers, Eggplant, Tomatoes, main season Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts