The time to start seeds depends upon where you live. Even if it’s still too cold and snowy to even think about gardening, here are some tips for when you do plunge your hands into the soil.
1. Determine you last freeze/frost date with the help of the National Climatic Data Center. Scroll down to your state on the left hand side and then click on the freeze/frost data. Scroll down to your town and look at the columns on the right. We’re only interested in the spring data for now. At the top of the chart are three different percentages. I usually go with the 50% chance which places my town at April 17. If you’re really worried, you can go to the 10% column, but in Oklahoma, we warm up so fast that I’m afraid to wait that long. April 17 also lines up the average frost date for much of my state which is April 20. This chart is great though because in even one state, you’ll have pockets of frost. Heck, in my yard there are microclimates of more warmth and areas where the frost hangs low for too long.
2. Look at your seed packet to see how many weeks you will need before your transplanting date. This is when you’ll need to start seeds. I talk a lot about seed starting my book, but tomatoes, for example, need starting 10-12 weeks prior to the magical freeze/frost date. Tomatoes and peppers are plants that don’t like cold weather so you can hold them a bit longer if your spring especially cold. If you want a good calculator to count back for you, check out Margaret Roach’s calculator on A Way to Garden.
3. You can also use her chart for seeds you want to sow directly outdoors. Cold crops like radishes, turnips, beets, lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, mache, bok choy and others can be sown directly outdoors. I will do mine the last week of February or the first week of March. We have another ice storm forecast for the end of February, so it may be later.
4. From the calculator, you can also ascertain when you should start seeds indoors or out. As you can see, you have plenty of leeway. I would also watch your weather forecasts. Sometimes, things heat up quickly in the spring, and other years, a wet and cold spring will drag on for seems like indefinitely. The seasons will change though. We know that for sure.
Now, you’ve got the data. Let’s get growing!