When is the Best Time to Start Seeds?

Seed starting is one of my favourite times of year; it means that spring is on it’s way and summer will be soon to follow! I’m always ready to jump the gun and get them started in January, months before I’ll be able to plant things. If January isn’t a good time to start seeds, then when is?

Well, that depends on what you’re planting and the zone that you’re in. To find your zone, do a quick Google search, or hit up the oneline version of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the gardening bible that grandmothers have been using forever.

Once you find your zone, all you have to do is count backwards from your frost date!

There are tons of great crops that don’t need to be started like radish, corn, carrots, quinoa, cucumbers, and any squash. These I usually just sow directly into the ground.

Because I live in zone 3, there are lots of seeds that I have to start early, else I won’t actually be able to enjoy them. They aren’t meant to grow in colder climates and need a longer growing season, so starting them indoors is a great way to enjoy tons of delicious vegetables and a blooming garden.

Pro tip: you don’t have to start all seeds in tiny pots, ready to be throw into the ground. You can plant them directly into the containers you’ll be putting on the deck.


Lettuce: Lettuce doesn’t take a long time to mature, but it does like cooler weather. So, start a few pots of lettuce every week until it’s time to plant (and then switch to direct sowing every 1-2 weeks) for a continuous supply of lettuce all summer long. If you protect the lettuce, or place in a greenhouse, you can grow lettuce well into the fall months, too!
Start your lettuce 8-10 weeks before the last frost date so you have the most amount of delicious fresh greens for salads and sandwiches.

Leeks: Leeks, for me, have been a pain in the ass to grow, but hopefully this year will be best! I normally direct sow my onions as soon as the ground thaws (but even before the danger of frost hasn’t passed), but I’m going to try starting them this year.
Start your leeks 8-10 weeks before the last frost date. This isn’t the same as the lettuce, which is relatively quick to grow, leeks take a while to get started.

Cabbage: Cabbage is delicious chopped up into fresh coleslaw and looks beautiful in your garden. Try adding cabbage (red and green!) to your flower garden for a little bit of a contrast.
Start your cabbage seeds 2-3 weeks before the last frost date.

Bell Peppers: Last year I planted my peppers in an extremely sunny location and took care to water them every day. While they got taken out by our invasion of grasshoppers, they were doing so well! I owe it to starting my peppers indoors and keeping them warm outside as peppers love heat.
Start your bell peppers 8-10 weeks before the last frost date. Packages will say 8 weeks, but I’ve sometimes had trouble getting peppers to stay sturdy once outside and germinate as quickly as they should, so giving yourself an extra week or two can help with your yield.

Hot Peppers: Jalopenos, Habanero, Ring of Fire peppers. All of your wonderful salsa peppers. Hot peppers love sun and heat, so plant them the same as bell peppers.
Start your peppers anywhere from 6-10 weeks, as some varieties won’t take as long as bell peppers. I’m using the same method of adding on an additional week or two jsut the same as the bell peppers above.

Broccoli: Broccoli and I don’t usually get along, so my broccoli may not make it, but yours might! My friend can grow lavender like nobody’s business, but I can’t get it to grow, at all. These things just seem to happen.
Start your seeds about 10 weeks before the last frost date.

Cauliflower: Cauliflower and I get along much better than broccoli and I always end up with a pretty great yield. Usually, I only buy started plants from the greenhouse, but this year I’m doing a little of both.
Start your seeds 4-6 weeks before the last frost date.


Strawberries: Strawberries are best bought as plugs and popped into the ground, but if you’re intrigued by starting from seed, then start them now! Strawberries take a little while to get going and don’t germinate for 2-5 weeks! Be patient with them. This is the first year I’m starting strawberries from seed (an adorable cube seed starter in Indigo was calling my name) and I’m excited to try. I haven’t done this myself, so this is all information from the internet and my experience with how slow already started strawberries can grow.
Start your strawberry seeds 10-12 weeks before the last frost date.

When is the best time to start your seeds indoors? | Luxuriously Thrifty
I wish my strawberry plants looked like this!

Cantaloupe: Cantaloupe doesn’t have to be hard to grow! Simply start your seeds ahead of time and you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy delicious melons straight from the garden this summer.
Start your cantaloupe seeds 2-3 weeks before the last frost date.

Watermelon: Watermelon grows similar to cantaloupe, but takes a little longer to mature than cantaloupe does. That being said, you can still start your seeds at the same time.
Start your watermelon seeds 2-3 weeks before the last frost date.

Note: I’m experimenting with starting my melons much further in advance as they didn’t grow that well starting that close to the frost date! Check out this post on what else you can start in February.


Flowers are a little different than vegetables. If you want blooming flowers as soon as possible, you can start them weeks and weeks in advance, just as long as they’re hardy to spring temperatures.

Love Lies Bleeding: Ever since I read about this beautiful shrubby flower in a book, I’ve wanted to plant it. This is the year, people!
Start your seeds 2-3 weeks before the last frost date.

Lemon Grass: It smells amazing, can be used in cooking and repels mosquitos! Why not plant a big ol’ container of lemon grass to greet you at the front door?
Start your seeds 8-10 weeks before the last frost date.

Marigold: Another mosquito repeller and a staple in everyone’s garden, these beauties come in so many colours! I always get tons of seeds, planting rows in my garden and on my deck and by the pond to repel mosquitos all summer long.
Start your seeds 4 weeks before the last frost date. I’m starting mine 5-6 weeks before my last frost date because I want to enjoy the marigolds for much longer than I did last summer.

Bells of Ireland: These beauties grow tall and produce adorable little green ‘bells’ as flowers.
Start your seeds 6 weeks before the last frost date.

Amaranthus: Beautiful crimson and green leaves, this plant is perfect as a filler that will bush out in a container.
Start your seeds 3-5 weeks before the last frost date. The package states 2-3, but I couldn’t get mine to germinate for quite a long time, so this year, I’m going for the 3-5 weeks!

Sweet Peas: I absolutely love sweet peas. They look amazing climbing up a trellis and adorable in a vase as a cut flower. I’m starting seeds in a bit of a succession with sweet peas, so I can enjoy them a little longer summer this.
Start your seeds 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. For a succession of sweet peas, start them 8 weeks then 6 weeks then 4 weeks, keeping them babied until they’re sturdy enough to be planted outside.

Happy Seed Starting!

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