Seed Starting & Planting Schedule

Seed Starting & Planting Schedule

Knowing when to plant each vegetable is often difficult to determine, but it’s key to success. And it just happens to be one of the things I talked about in spring of 2011 when I put on my Master Gardener hat at our Spring Demo Day event. So, I dusted off the notes from my talk and tweaked them a bit for the following.

me speaking at 2011 Spring Demo Day

me speaking at 2011 Spring Demo Day

Let me say right up front that all the date ranges I am going to throw out here are for gardeners with climates similar to our own USDA zone 6B, and with a similar length growing season. For example, here in southern Indiana there is less than a 10% chance of having a frost after the last week of April. If you wait until May 1st, there is pretty much a zero chance of frost. In fall our first frost usually occurs around the last week of October. So that gives us around 180 frost free growing days each year. You can check your town’s frost/freeze dates and growing season information in this NOAA document, but be aware the document is from 1988, and the data was collected even earlier.


bounty of seed packets

Many state universities have free gardening resources available online, and I urge people to use them – it’s your tax dollars at work! Purdue University has a publication called Indiana Vegetable Planting Calender (HO-186W) that I use to develop my own planting schedule. Ohio has some good ones too, and you can find links to many of them on this web page.

In the table that follows ‘sow’ refers to direct seeding outdoors, and is usually done for peas, carrot, corn, radish, spinach, beans, and turnip. ‘Start’ means starting seeds indoors in pots, soil blocks, flats, trays or cell packs, and is usually done for broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, tomato, pepper and eggplant. Things like beet, Swiss chard, lettuce, arugula, endive, kohlrabi, kale, squash, melons, pumpkin, cucumber and many of the Asian greens can either be direct seeded outdoors -or- started inside. I often start these vegetables inside under lights to get a jump on the growing season. ‘Plant’ means to plant transplants outside or to directly plant things like onion sets, sweet potato slips or seed potato pieces.


  • Start arugula, Florence fennel, kale, lettuce, parsley


  • Sow arugula, mache, spinach
  • Start broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce


  • Sow peas, radish, spinach, arugula, endive
  • Plant onion(sets or transplants)
  • Start lettuce, pak choi, early tomatoes


  • Start eggplant, tomato, pepper


  • Sow beet, carrot, chard, lettuce, peas, radish, turnip
  • Plant broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, Florence fennel, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, onion, potato


  • Start lettuce
  • Sow beet, carrot, chard, lettuce
  • Plant broccoli, chard, Florence fennel, kohlrabi, lettuce, onion, potato


  • Sow green bean
  • Start cucumber, melon, pumpkins, squash
  • Plant lettuce


  • Sow corn, cucumbers, green bean, melons, pumpkin, squash
  • Plant cucumber, lettuce, melon, pumpkin, squash, tomato


  • Plant pepper, eggplant, okra


  • Plant sweet potato


  • Start fall broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale


  • Sow beans (snap), beets, carrot, chard, peas, turnip, kohlrabi
  • Plant fall broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi


  • Sow arugula, Asian greens, endive, lettuce, mache, radish, spinach
  • Plant Asian greens, endive, lettuce


  • plant garlic

I have to emphasize that the above dates for sowing and planting are guidelines only! Last year was a great example. We had record rains, and a cool wet spring, which made it difficult to get the soil prepared. It also made the ground slower to warm up. Another way to decide when to plant certain vegetables is to use soil temperature.

soil and instant read thermometers

You can find soil thermometers at many garden centers, but you can use any type thermometer as long as it registers in the necessary range. Take the soil temperature by inserting the thermometer in the soil where you intend to plant the specific crop. An instant read thermometer is also good to monitor the temperature of your seed starting mix. Following is a table listing the minimum soil temperatures preferred by certain vegetables. Seed packets and catalogs are a good source of information regarding germination temperatures (Johnny’s Selected Seeds is one of my favorite sources).

  • 45°F – potato, onion, peas, spinach, arugula, lettuce
  • 50°F – broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower
  • 60°F – tomato, corn, beet
  • 65°F – cantaloupe, cucumber, green bean, pepper, pumpkin, squash
  • 70°F – lima bean, okra

For instance, if you plant your tomatoes when the soil is below 60°F, they’re just going to sit there and sulk. If you plant seeds when the soil is too cold, they are likely to rot. Some seeds (like lettuce and spinach) won’t germinate when the soil is too hot. Of course there are ways to warm up soil faster in spring, like using black plastic or raised beds, but that’s a subject for another article! I also plan on doing a few more posts in the near future regarding some of the specifics about my seed starting techniques, including soil mixes, lights, heating mats, and so on. So stay tuned if you are interested!

Ultimately, I use a combination of the calendar, soil thermometer and the weather report when making the decision of when to plant. My above lists don’t include all vegetables by any means, but do include most of the ones I grow regularly. I hope this information will be helpful. If anyone has any questions, I’m always happy to try and answer them.



5 Responses to Seed Starting & Planting Schedule

  1. Megan says:


    Thank you for putting together this wonderful schedule. I also live in zone 6b southern Indiana. I have been scouring the web for a list like this. Gardening can sometimes be overwhelming for a newbie like me. This schedule is a great starting point. Thanks again!


  2. Julie says:

    This is only my second year with a garden, but my first starting this year. I am not too far from you, in Northern Tennessee and my schedule looks close to yours. I guess that means I am on the right path 🙂

  3. Jo says:

    Hello….Just found your site a few days ago. We live in Zone 6A or B…never sure since we’re close to Lake Erie….maybe 4 to 6 miles in, depending on how the crow flies.
    I saw the photo of your bowl filed with lettuce this morning. Showed it to my husband and he was also astounded by your bounty! Having not gone through your whole website yet, I am wondering…did you grow it in a greenhouse or did you actually plant it outside? If outdoors, did you use a covering over the plants?
    I’m skimming and writing this off the cuff…probably not thoroughly enough ( the news these days is distracting, but vital).
    Your planting schedule..I saw sweet potatoes listed! Sweet potatoes??? We can grow them in this area of the country??? Thought they could only be grown in the south…what with their 100+ days to harvest and the heat requirements.
    Am really most interested in how you’re getting such an abundance of lettuce. I will now continue reading through your site. It touches on being almost golden for us from what I’ve seen, so far. To be able to begin gardening so early in the year..amazing!
    As an aside, I do grow a few greens under lights, but still have to buy the leafy stuff at the grocery store. As things go, even a trip to the store has to be well thought out. The times they are a’changin!

    Thank you.

    • Dave @ HappyAcres says:

      Hi Jo, that lettuce was grown in the greenhouse. However, in our area it is definitely time to plant lettuce outside whether under cover or not. We have a bad deer problem, so I have to cover things even when the weather warms up. Cold frames are a great way to extend the season too, and I have information on them on my blog as well. As for sweet potatoes, many gardeners in the north have success with the Beauregard variety. I have a friend whose daughter grows them in the Madison, WI area which I think is zone 5.

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