When to Start Vegetable Seeds

Mar. 9, 2010

Spring is Coming and I am definitely excited, too excited. I have the terrible habit of starting too many seeds too soon, running out of room and killing my vegetable seedlings before they get a chance out in the garden.

To make things easier, I did more research on the steps of seed germination and put together printable seed starting charts to refer to. Starting vegetable seeds has more to do with temperature than anything else, so follow these seed starting charts for awesome vegetables in your garden this year.

vegetable seed starter chart

vegetable seed days to germination

Download and Print: (right click and save on your computer)
I printed both charts, glued them back to back, cut them along the line and laminated them

Seed Germination Charts

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37 Responses to “When to Start Vegetable Seeds”

  1. Garden Hoe says:

    Your chart is useful. I love the way it is color coded and easy to use. I much prefer sowing my seeds by temperature than by date.

    • Trisha says:

      Thanks! Im so glad you like the chart. Yes, by weather is optimal, however, these springs have been crazy. Its May 26th and 50 degrees out there! My tomatoes dont like it, but they’ll survive.

  2. Alex says:

    Is this for direct sowing?

    • Trisha says:

      either one Alex. You can direct sow when the temps warm according to the chart. Or you can start indoors and put them out according to temperature. When your moving seedlings outdoors, remember to keep them protected from harsh sun and wind and harden them off slowly before you plant. If you have a coldframe, thats perfect.

  3. Katherine Savord says:

    Is this air temperature or soil /ground temperature??

    • Trisha says:

      Katherine, its based on air temperature. I use these guides for two basic purposes. Starting indoors and direct sowing in the garden.

      If im starting seeds indoors, the cool temps in the ‘seed starter’ chart are mainly to help me know, when I can start hardening things off and get them out of this tiny room. Which plants can withstand what temps and how soon I can get them into a coldframe. I’ll check the historic weather data on Farmers almanac for temperature in my area, then count back the number of weeks indicated on the seed packet. I know its not exact science, but its a good estimate.

      If im direct sowing in the garden, I look at the germination chart, to estimate when, by temp i can start sowing and how long it will take before i see anything popping up. Even in the garden, I’ll build a hoop house over my raised beds. If the cold doesnt creep back in, rain and animals will still mess it all up.

      We’re in strange climate (chicago zone5 – COLD and WINDY). hot/cold until mid may. Last springs early heatwave followed by another coldsnap did a number on so many things. Plus, much of our stuff is in pots, so we don’t have the advantage of much ground heat. thank god PVC, Plastic and White Sheets(resaleshop) are so cheap. Were constantly running around building shelter for the little guys. coldsnaps, 100mph winds, drought, 100 degree temps for weeks. and that was all just LAST YEAR. Im still always in awe at how much these plants can withstand.

  4. Hi

    These charts are superb. I found the charts used on another website, I am not sure if they have permission to use them, but I was wondering if it would be ok to share them on my website? I will obviously include you as the creator, link to your website and encourage my visitors to check out your website.

    My website is currently getting 3000+ visitors a day. We also have a Facebook page with over 14,000 fans (http://www.facebook.com/Knowledgeweighsnothing). I always let my Facebook fans know when there is a new post on the website; as a result, you would get a WHOLE LOAD (1000s) of new visitors to your website over the coming days, plus many more over the coming months.

    Can you drop me a quick email and let me know?



  5. Catherine says:

    Do you know if there is a chart somewhere that shows the minimum temp these veggies can withstand? I can start a lot of things in the house but I don’t want to set them out too soon. Most veggies I know but there are a few that are question marks for me. I’m assuming the lowest temps that they will germinate may be the lowest advisable temps to set them out but I’ve put peppers and eggplant out at 50 degrees and they’ve done fine so the chart wouldn’t hold up for that. Please let me know if you have knowledge of such a list. Thanks again, I’ll be printing the above list out and have passed it on to our local garden site on FB as well as to family! 🙂

    • Trisha says:

      Catherine, the charts were meant for that purpose. To know when to start hardening things off that were started indoors, or when to direct sow. Originally when I started this project, i didnt find any great comprehensive charts for this purpose, so I researched for hours, through .edu sites to put it together. As I continue to gain experience with more veggies I have been adjusting the chart. Ive never actually tried to put peppers or eggplant out at 50 degrees so thanks for the heads up. Its also been brought to my attention that kale should be started much sooner. I will continue to update the chart with the input people bring to me, so THANKS!

      • Catherine says:

        Yep, here in Vancouver, WA you can usually put tomatoes, peppers and eggplant (I roll them as one catagory for me since they seem to have such similar needs) out in early May knowing that IF we get a cold spell or night we have to cover them. I actually put mine in the ground around that time last year and kept them hooped until it got really hot out in late June. I opened them up during the day and closed them each evening, worked GREAT! As for the Kale, I agree, much earlier … I started mine in mid August and thought it should have been earlier then but I was able to harvest from October 1 until the following June when most of it had gone to seed. However, I had a few plants that NEVER died after bolting so I continued to eat it until the nest crop of plants started to grow. LOVE kale. I started a lot of veggies last year by direct sowing but only the sugar pod peas really did well, the others hobbled along until late fall when they finally took off. I still have beets and perpetual spinach looking great out there … if I could just get out during the day to get them! LOL Having a non-napping youngster really cramps my gardening style but I’m enjoying it while I can, he’ll be in school all too soon. 🙂

        • Trisha says:

          I have hoops and coldframes all over the place. It started with 2 liter bottle clotches and grew from there. after figuring out the benefits of a simple pvc+plastic hoop house, Im always running around covering everything. Protecting it from the cold, wind, sun. Its so easy. I posted about it here Heck you can even just push the pvc into the ground and it works.

          The only thing ive ever started in the ground that worked without a hoop were carrots and beets. I tried Kale this august and they didnt grow. They probably needed the hoops too. we had a blistering summer in Chicago.

          Im going to do another round of research and see how I can improve these charts. Thanks for the input!!!

          • Catherine says:

            Trick to kale is that it HAS to be kept damp and barely cover it. I actally used dry aged horse manure that is mixed with wood shavings and rubbed it in my hand as I walked down the row, barely covering it then had a soaker hose next to the row and kept it damp, it came up VERY fast. Try it again, I’m sure you will have great success and it is so very worth it! I’ve found I prefer Russian Red … it is beautifully colored, kept damp the stem stays tender and it seemed to be slightly sweet compared to other, more pungent tasting varieties. I also found it could NOT be covered in the winter as once it is up and growing it does not like heat, especially when it is cold outside. I covered mine when we got some freezing rain and it started turning yellow and wilting! I uncovered it, even though we were getting ice and it bounced right back. Gotta love a veggie like that. 🙂 Good luck growing it this year!

  6. […] to a little surfing on Springpad, I found these great charts for when to plant vegetables, by temperature. On the same blog there’s also a short & […]

  7. […] show how variations in soil temperature influence the length of time a seed takes to germinate. Steps of Seed Germination: Part2 Seed Germination Process For example, a tomato seed will take 48 days to germinate at 50F but only 6 days at 77F, also that […]

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  13. […] Cultivator’s  Corner has two great graphs to help you in your seed starting.  I actually decided to go ahead and put out some tomato plants after referencing these and realizing my thinking was wrong (though tomato plants love warmer weather, they will still do okay in the upper 60′s).  I’m thinking of printing off both graphs, putting them back to back and laminating them.  They would be a great resource for my seed starting area. […]

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