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Seed Starting: When Do You Start?

by | Mar 6, 2018

Soil blocked seedlings showing off their beautiful roots.

This is for sure one of the busiest seed starting times of the year and for me, one of the most exciting times! Woohoo—let’s get some baby plants going! The anticipation and excitement are almost too much. (Some, have even been known to overindulge into this practice of seed starting, but no names please…) All seeds and supplies have been gathered and we are going at it here on the farm.

So, when do you start anyway? Not to go down a rabbit hole, but first you need to know an important fact, there are two different types of annual seeds: tender warm-season seeds and hardy cool-season seeds. Knowing which type seeds you have is key to determining when you should plant and grow that plant. Once you know when to plant a transplant you can count back to when to start the seed. Simple really.

Warm-season seeds are those that grow and prefer the heat of summer. They include plants like tomatoes, zinnias, squash, sunflowers, etc. This is the group of seeds we are currently beginning to start.

Cool-season Stock flowers are in the ground, getting established, and will bloom in May.

Cold-hardy seeds are those that like cooler temperatures and are often planted in the fall or very early spring. Some of these are lettuces, snapdragons, spinach, cabbages, sweet peas, poppies, etc. This group of plants are already in the ground in early spring and preparing to bloom and provide a harvest.

So, back to when to start. This season is coming upon us to start warm season seeds (tomatoes, sunflowers, etc,). But beware— don’t start to early! One of the most frustrating struggles I hear folks have when starting indoors is how big and unmanageable the plants got before they could plant outdoors. This is simply because in our excitement to get started, we start to soon. Which leads to an unhealthy, tall, lanky plant that will not perform and produce like a younger healthier plant.

Solution: get excited and get outdoors and do spring chores like weeding, mulching, and adding compost, etc. Wait on seed starting to the correct time. The correct time for me is later than most seed starters because we use the soil blocking method that really accelerates root and plant growth. Examples; we start tomatoes 4-5 weeks before planting out and zinnias 2-3 weeks.

The important tip here is to start later than earlier for a healthy plant to transplant outdoors!

If you’d like to learn more on seed starting checkout my All Things Soil Blocking that pools many resources in one spot for your convenience.

Happy Early Spring!


Founder of The Gardener’s Workshop and Flower Farming School Online . Author of Vegetables Love Flowers, Cool Flowers, and The Easy Cut-Flower Garden  . Connect with Lisa on Facebook  and Instagram !