Seed-Starting 101: Crafting a Seed-Starting Schedule

This is the first post in a six part series on the basics of starting seeds.

From the soft comfort of a fireside rocking chair, your garden holds endless possibilities. You can picture–taste, even–the sweet tang of your certain bushels of tomatoes, the crisp crunch of cucumbers, the melting delicateness of a pile of stir-fried snow peas. All of this dreaming is essential–and at least partly true–but luckily February moves along, and wispy garden dreams must solidify into concrete garden plans if you hope to bring your visions to fruition, so to speak.

There are many garden plans to be made–questions of fencing, fertility, and size, among countless others–but one of the most vital is planning your schedule for starting seeds.

The key information to establishing your plan is your last spring frost date. This date is the average last day that gardeners can expect a frost to visit their garden. Here in the Mid-Hudson Valley, this date is about May 10th. However, this date differs significantly throughout the state (see this link from Cornell for an enlightening map), and it is also often refuted by actual fact: in both 2008 and 2009, for example, much of the Hudson Valley experienced a late May frost strong enough to damage frost-tender crops significantly. Still, we need a starting point, and the last frost date is it. (Outside NYS? Check out this link for extremely thorough frost and freeze data from throughout the country.)

Below is a rough schedule of spring seed-starting tasks in our region. For gardeners in the NYC metro area, you can start seeds about two or three weeks earlier than listed; for gardeners north and west of the Hudson Valley, you can start seeds about one week later than listed. Live elsewhere? Modify the chart by figuring out the difference between your frost date and May 10th, then adjust your plantings by that increment in either direction.

This table is a work in progress (it’s also too busy-looking for my taste–but it’ll have to do for now). It is not meant to be prescriptive; it just lists sowing and transplanting opportunities for each of the main spring planting weeks. Many flowers and herbs are not yet included, and probably a few veggies are missing, too. Share your preferred planting dates in the comments, and let me know what’s missing–I’ll update this as much as I can over the next week or two. Enjoy!

“Under Protection” means in a cold frame, greenhouse, or indoors with supplemental lighting.

Week Starting… Seed-Starting Opportunities in the Mid-Hudson Valley (May 10th Frost Date)
Feb 14th Under Protection: Onions, Leeks, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives, Celery, Celeriac, Artichoke
Feb 21st Under Protection: Onions, Leeks, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives, Celery, Celeriac, Artichoke
Feb 28th Under Protection: Onions, Leeks, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives, Celery, Celeriac, Artichoke
March 7th Under Protection: Arugula, Spring Raab, Parsley, Onions, Leeks, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives, Celery, Celeriac, Artichoke
March 14th Under Protection: Lettuce, early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Broccoli, Arugula, Spring Raab, Parsley, Onions, Leeks, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives, Celery, Celeriac
Direct Sow: Spinach, Peas, Arugula, Spring/Summer Onions
March 21st Under Protection: Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Chard, Lettuce, early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
Direct Sow: Radishes, Spinach, Peas, Arugula, Spring/Summer Onions
March 28th Under Protection: Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Chard, Lettuce, early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
Direct Sow: Spring Raab, Radishes, Spinach, Peas, Arugula, Spring/Summer Onions
April 7th Under Protection: Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Chard, Lettuce, early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
Direct Sow: Spring Raab, Radishes, Spinach, Peas, Arugula, Spring/Summer Onions
April 14th Under Protection: Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Chard, Lettuce, early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
Direct Sow: Lettuce, Carrots, Parsnips, Spring Raab, Radishes, Spinach, Peas, Arugula, Spring/Summer Onions
Transplant:Lettuce, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
April 21st Under Protection: Chard, Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Lettuce, early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
Direct Sow: Chard, Beets, Lettuce, Carrots, Parsnips, Spring Raab, Radishes, Spinach, Peas, Arugula, Spring/Summer Onions
Transplant:Lettuce, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
April 28th Under Protection: Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant, early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
Direct Sow: Chard, Beets, Lettuce, Carrots, Parsnips, Spring Raab, Radishes, Spinach, Peas, Arugula, Spring/Summer Onions
Transplant: early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Lettuce, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
May 7th Under Protection: Okra, Cucumbers, Melons, Squash, main season Cabbage, Tomatoes, Tatsoi, Bok Choy
Direct Sow: Chard, Beets, Corn, Lettuce, Carrots, Parsnips, Radishes, Spinach, Peas, Arugula
Transplant: early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Lettuce, Spring Raab, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
May 14th Under Protection: Okra, Cucumbers, Melons, Squash, main season Cabbage, Tomatoes, Tatsoi, Bok Choy
Direct Sow: Chard, Beets, Beans, Corn, Lettuce, Carrots, Parsnips, Radishes, Spinach, Peas, Arugula, Spring Raab
Transplant: early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Lettuce, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
May 21st Under Protection: Okra, Cucumbers, Melons, Squash, main season Cabbage, Tomatoes
Direct Sow: Beans, Corn, Lettuce, Carrots, Parsnips, Arugula
Transplant: Tomatoes, early Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Broccoli, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Lettuce, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
May 28th Under Protection: Okra, Melons
Direct Sow: Cucumbers, Squash, Beans, Corn, Lettuce, Carrots, Parsnips, Arugula
Transplant: Cucumbers, Squash, Peppers, Eggplant, Tomatoes, Kale Collards, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Arugula, Parsley, Scallions, Chives, Garlic Chives
June 7th Direct Sow: Okra, Melons, Cucumbers, Squash, Beans, Corn, Lettuce, Carrots, Parsnips, Arugula
Transplant: Okra, Melons, Cucumbers, Squash, Peppers, Eggplant, Tomatoes, main season Cabbage

Originally Published on the Hudson Valley Seed Library blog

3 thoughts on “Seed-Starting 101: Crafting a Seed-Starting Schedule

  1. I am sooooooo tortured by bloggers like you! :-P We got at least 4 inches of new snow this morning. I have not seen dirt since maybe November. Sigh… On that map, my garden is right where there is a 90 degree angle in Essex County, with Franklin County above it. Our last frost date is some time in June. Last year we had quite the snow storm with white-outs on May 31st. Sigh…..

  2. Pingback: Civil Eats » Blog Archive » Starting Seeds Under Protection