Updated 1/25/2018: I added how to repeat your planting dates on Google calendar, so that you don’t have to redo all your planning in consecutive years. As long as you are still gardening in the same zone, you will be all set for the coming years.
If you want to grow from seed, the first thing you need to know is that planning ahead is super important. It might surprise you to know that I start my tomato seeds inside in the beginning of February. I would have never guessed this based on when tomatoes are ripe in my area or outdoor temperatures during that time of year – I had to do some reading ahead and plan for it. Planning ahead and knowing when to plant your seeds will help ensure you experience more gardening success by starting your plants on the right foot (or date, rather).
Step One – Start Here
If this is your first ever garden, start here with all the prep and go through each step. Don’t be fooled by thinking your reason and setting a goal are just fluff. These are the two most important parts. Gardening isn’t easy. You need to know why you’re doing it and what your goal is so that you will keep reaching for it when times get tough and you encounter problems.
Read through part 1 and part 2 of How to Start and STICK with Gardening and when you get to part 3, step 7 and begin selecting your plants, you are ready to keep reading this article! Why can’t you jump ahead? You can, but you will save yourself LOADS of frustration and time if you follow along.
Step Two – Select Your Plants
Selecting plants is a super fun part! Before you get too excited listing everything you want to eat from your garden, learn which plants grow during each season.
Once you know which plants you want to grow, read here to find out if you should buy transplants or seeds. If you are buying seeds, read on!
Step Three – Determine When to Plant
Now that you have your garden space all set and you have selected your seeds, it’s time to figure out the best time to put them in the ground or start them inside.
Know Your First and Last Average Frost Dates
Begin by gathering your seed packets and determining your average first and last frost dates. Find both dates by going here and clicking on the Frost Calculator.
Read Your Seed Packet
Now, determine when to sow your seeds. This is typically listed on the back of your seed packet. If you can’t find the information on the seed packet, check the website of the seed company and it is usually listed there, under Grow Guide or another title.
Mark Your Calendar
Get a calendar in front of you and mark your average first and last freeze. I use Google calendar, so I can access it on my iPhone as well. Then, go seed packet by seed packet marking the dates you should sow each seed.
For example, for Arkansas Traveler tomatoes, the seed packet says to sow indoors in shallow pots 6 weeks before the average last frost.
So, for me, I look at March 21st, where I marked the average last freeze for my area, and I count back 6 weeks to February 7th. As you can see in the image, I actually label each week so I don’t have to count each time. It makes the whole process go much faster. For example, February 28th says, “three” because it is three weeks before the average last freeze.
I make a note on my Google calendar to sow tomato seeds and set a reminder on my iPhone to notify me.
Then, click edit and select the drop down menu next to “All day” to change the event to repeat annually on the same day.
Take the time to plan ahead and determine when to plant your seeds. Depending on how many seeds you are planning to sow, this could take quite awhile. However, once you complete your calendar, you can reuse it every year! When you grow a new variety, you will want to double check your calendar because the planting times can vary slightly. There are always early varieties that take less time to ripen and late varieties that take more time. The good news is that you will only have to spot check and adjust slightly instead of redoing an entire new calendar each year.