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When to start garden seeds indoors: Seed starting calculator

When to start your vegetable seeds

When you start seeds indoors in a vegetable garden, it can be difficult getting your schedule down to ensure that start your vegetable seeds with enough lead time that they are mature enough to venture outside but also not so large they take over your growing area.

Personally this has been a difficult part for me where I am really good getting the early vegetables started on time (onions, peppers, tomatoes) but when it comes to the later plants and/or second/third plantings is where I begin to get forgetful.  Over the years I have come across a couple of great tools to make this easier that I thought I would share.

No matter which option you choose to start garden seeds indoors you will need to determine an important date, your last frost date. There are many sites/tables out there that will give an estimate I actually have a couple posts on the subject but at the moment my favorite site that makes this very easy is WeatherSpark, it uses historical data with great visuals to easily determine when the best probability of picking the right date. Here you can take a look at this historical data and make your call of what date you think will be safe.


1. Create a garden schedule.  Just by figuring out your last frost date and doing a little math (Excel works great for this) you can determine the optimal seed starting dates and even get a general idea of when your plants should be ready for transplanting.  What I love about this technique is you can tweak it each year as things worked well (or not so well) in previous years to get the schedule finely tuned to your particular garden and the micro-climates within it.

In addition knowing an estimate of when these plants will be venturing out in the wild can assist in your space planning for your seeding area as well as having a reality check if you see your peppers will be ready to be transplanted in March when it doesn’t get above freezing until mid-June.

Here is my schedule for starting seeds indoors my area and estimated last frost date (April 20th), though sure everyone that is reading this will not have the same date as mine so thanks to my infinite nerdiness I made the following table so you can adjust the “Last Frost Date” to yours and see how my schedule would look in your area.

 Last Frost Date:  
Vegetable Name Seed Start Date Estimated
Celery 1/19/2013 3/18/2013 4/24/2013
Onion 1/19/2013 3/25/2013 5/24/2013
Leeks 1/19/2013 3/21/2013 6/3/2013
Kale 1/26/2013 3/7/2013 3/22/2013
Artichoke 1/31/2013 4/27/2013 6/20/2013
Kohlrabi 2/9/2013 3/15/2013 4/5/2013
Pak Choi 2/9/2013 3/6/2013 4/10/2013
Parsley 2/8/2013 4/6/2013 4/24/2013
Lettuce 2/9/2013 3/6/2013 4/5/2013
Broccoli 2/9/2013 3/15/2013 4/20/2013
Pepper – Jalapeno 2/9/2013 4/28/2013 4/25/2013
Pepper – Bell 2/9/2013 5/4/2013 4/25/2013
Swiss Chard 2/16/2013 3/20/2013 4/7/2013
Cabbage 2/16/2013 3/31/2013 5/7/2013
Brussel Sprouts 2/22/2013 3/31/2013 5/23/2013
Collards 3/2/2013 3/24/2013 5/1/2013
Tomato 3/2/2013 5/4/2013 5/21/2013
Spinach 3/9/2013 4/23/2013
Peas 3/9/2013 5/13/2013
Turnips 3/9/2013 5/8/2013
Watermelon 3/16/2013 5/27/2013 6/14/2013
Basil 3/24/2013 5/14/2013 6/22/2013
Potatoes 3/30/2013 7/8/2013
Radish 3/31/2013 5/5/2013
Beets 3/31/2013 6/4/2013
Carrots 4/9/2013 6/23/2013
Corn 4/9/2013 5/7/2013 6/28/2013
Cucumber 4/9/2013 5/16/2013 6/8/2013
Okra 4/9/2013 5/11/2013 6/13/2013
Pumpkin 4/9/2013 5/7/2013 7/28/2013
Summer Squash – Sunburst 4/9/2013 5/16/2013 6/3/2013
Winter Squash – Hunter 4/9/2013 5/16/2013 7/3/2013
Zucchini 4/9/2013 5/16/2013 6/3/2013
Lettuce 4/13/2013 6/7/2013
Beans 5/4/2013 7/13/2013
Dill 5/11/2013 7/15/2013
Carrots 5/27/2013 8/10/2013
Broccoli 6/22/2013 8/2/2013 8/31/2013
Cabbage 6/22/2013 8/2/2013 9/10/2013
Kale 6/22/2013 7/22/2013 8/16/2013
Kohlrabi 6/22/2013 7/29/2013 8/16/2013
Cabbage – Napa 7/24/2013 8/21/2013 10/7/2013
Pak Choi 7/24/2013 8/21/2013 9/22/2013
Onion – Bunching 7/24/2013 10/2/2013
Turnip 7/24/2013 9/22/2013
Lettuce 8/3/2013 9/27/2013
Spinach 8/10/2013 9/24/2013
Corn Salad 8/10/2013 9/29/2013
Garlic 10/12/2013 2/14/2014
Pak Choi 12/14/2013 1/26/2014 2/12/2014

* N/A because vegetables should be sown directly in the ground.


2. Create a garden plan online and get reminders.  My favorite online vegetable gardening software is GrowVeg.  It is very easy to use and provides some great visuals when to specifically plant seeds and transplant your seedlings outdoors, which you can see below.


In addition you also can recreate a virtual copy of your garden and plan exactly where you want to plant your vegetables, to ensure your ambitions for growing a huge crop this year does not exceed the reality of the limited space you have to actually grow.  It also remembers where you planted vegetables in previous years to help enforce crop rotation to ensure pests/diseases will be forced to remain in check.


Though one of my favorite features is the weekly reminders, once a week you get a simple email letting you know what plants you should be starting/transplanting that week.  This was very helpful later in the season where I probably would have completely forgotten about my carrots without this helpful reminder.


3. Buy a garden planning book.  If you want something that you can really get your hands on you might want to check out the Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook helps with this problem by providing weekly reminders of what vegetables you should be order/planting and what preparations you should be doing in your garden.  This can be a very helpful tool in getting a little more organized in your vegetable garden.


Already falling behind on your seed planting here are a few great options to get a great selection of seeds without spending a lot of money:

  • One of my favorites is Burpee Seeds, they have been around since 1876 and definitely know their stuff. The actually have a seed sale going on now where you get $15 off on order of $75 (just use code AFFB4A35) expires on 1/15.
  • The name is not too exciting but Generic Seeds offers no thrills packaging with quality seeds and very reasonable prices and if you spend $20 or more shipping is on them.

Recent Entries

Opening weekend at the farmers market


We actually had some great weather the first couple weekends of the farmers market.  We got our typical early season purchases (kettle corn and apples) though also got some strangely slightly higher priced flowers for mothers day.

Though we did learn something important after our first visit…be sure to not eat right before going to the farmers market and stay hungry for the great food.


Chicken coop and chicken update


Well good news I got the chicken coop done just in time for the little guys to move out there this weekend.  In all I like how it turned out and for now feel it should be pretty secure with the solid floor, elevated coop, and entirely wrapped in 1/2 inch hardware cloth (a bit pricey but probably worth the cost of waking up to raccoons in the coop…)



I did have a couple additions after taking this picture by adding a little window at the bottom of the clean out door so the kids and take a peek at the chickens without having to open the door.  I also installed the ramp to get from the coop to the run.


Inside the coop I went natural with a simple stick to use as a roost since I have so many of these around the property…though at the moment the chickens are more interested in pecking at it than standing on it.  I also have a standard light with 75 watt bulb which I am keeping on all day and a infrared heat lamp I am just turning on at night in case they get a little chilly.

Once they get a little less “chicken” and actually venture outside during the day I will turn off the light during the day and as they get a little bigger will wean them off the heat lamp as well (possible bringing it back this winter if we get some colder than typical winters.

Will plan on creating another post eventually with some specifics of construction and the cool features I added as well as things I probably would have done differently.

Countdown for chicken coop


This weekend we picked up our chicks at Keep It Simple Farm.  Our three kids, my two nieces, and one of my daughter’s friends each picked out a chick and we ended up with one Silkie and five Ffrizzles.  They are currently two weeks old so I now have four weeks to finish building a chicken coop.  Fortunately the first weekend was very productive.


My design is to have a chicken run that is six feet by ten feet with the coop being four feet by six feet giving a decent amount of space to explore.  Given we have raccoons hanging around in out backyard having the so plan is to have a solid wood floor and wrap the entire chicken wire in 1/2 inch hardware cloth to help protect those soon to be grown up chickens.


Mantis 4-cycle tiller/cultivator review – Day 1


A week before I was about to move to my new house with a much larger yard I got an email from the nice people at Mantis asking if I would like to review their 4 cycle tiller/cultivator.  Given I needed to start from scratch of a new garden and had a decent amount of land to use it on it sounded like a great idea.

The tiller came in the box requiring some basic installation requiring some basic tools.  This was pretty easy though guessing it was from some of the long days moving/unpacking but I had some trouble handles put on the right way.  Brain kept forgetting I had the thing upside down :)  Though after probably about 30 minutes I had the tiller assembled ready for its first mission…expanding the garden.


I previously pulled this ivy-like ground cover away with a rake and some gentle massaging by yanking on it pretty hard and was hoping to have the tiller do some of this heavy work for me.  The tiller had some serious power though the ivy just wanted to hang onto the tines and eventually had to remove them to get the mess I created cleared.


Though it had the power to clear this ground cover out this is probably not exactly its designed use so results probably should have been expected.

After clearing some ivy I decided to try digging into the ground a bit by pulling the throttle and walking backwards with it.  This caused the tiller to dig deep into the ground where I remembered that my new yard has rocks 3-4 inches down which one ended up getting stuck in the tines where I again had to remove them.  In the future I should reverse the tines to use as a cultivator unless I have cleared the rocks deeper ahead of time.


Though I was not too successful with my first use I admittedly was pushing the intended use of this tiller but I was very impressed with the ease of starting (after reading directions) and the power this tiller/cultivator has while still being light enough to pack around with minimal effort.

What is also pretty cool about this tiller is there are optional attachments such as aerator and dethatcher which gives some options to extend it’s functionality without having to take up much extra space in your shed.

My next mission for this tiller is to clear an area of grass under my youngest daughters playset before laying down some wood chips which I expect will go much smoother than this mission…

The Cheap Vegetable Gardener has moved


So after decades of living in home in suburbia with a minimal amount of land this month I have moved to a new location where we have 1 acre of land to work with. 

Great news is there is awesome potential for gardening here, it also means I have to start over from scratch leaving my previous more mature plants behind…

Though this definitely provides me with some additional space for a garden there are a good portion of our land has some mature trees so still a good portion of space that is devoid of good light for vegetable gardening.


I started by planting a couple apple trees and as a last minute decision I also picked up a pear tree…


Now for the apple trees I did my research and made sure the varieties I got were compatible (Honeycrisp and Ginger Gold) to use as pollinators for each other by ensuring there was not a dreaded black dot when looking at the compatibility chart below I took a picture of at the Grey Barn Nursery where I also bought my trees.


The pear tree (Bartlett) on the other hand I was not as careful by just buying the one so looks like another tree purchase may be in my future.


I also planted a blueberry bush this time spending a bit more money for a mare mature plant given the little stick version I bought at my local home improvement store probably took 4 years to get this size and was just starting to produce.  Hopefully this way I might even get some berries to snack on this year (if the birds/squirrels/raccoons don’t beat me to them)


Also found a good fence line to plant some raspberries knowing moving was in the future last summer instead of throwing the sprouts that would pop up in my yard or sneak into my southern facing area for summer veggies into the compost I carefully removed them and put them up into pots which I transplanted into my new location…guess this is a bit of bringing my old garden with me in a way.


So for my actual vegetable garden I am sticking with cinder blocks since they are cheap and I can easily expand the garden as I have more time and plants to fill it (not no soil on blocks on the right going to expand there soon.  I also continued my habit of filling the cinderblock holes with strawberry starts.

One great thing about having a bit more space I can now buy screened compost by the yard and let it sit in a pile for a while, much cheaper than my previous buying bunch of bags of mystery compost opening them up and wonder if they mislabeled bark as compost….

For my planting I am going with the tried and true Mel’s Mix (1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss (or coconut coir), 1/3 vermiculite) which I load up into my garden cart (another new purchase) and add to my planting areas.


So a pond is also an addition to our new property, though I like the look/sound of this reality of maintenance has me a bit nervous so guess you may be hearing a bit about this in the future.


One other potential addition in the future to our property will be chickens we haven’t pulled the trigger on this yet though I have bought the wood for the chicken coop…the building of said coop has not made it as the next priority of projects since we moved in…not sure how chickens and cheap vegetable gardening may go together exactly but sure they will come up 🙂


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