Knowing when to start seeds indoors can be quite confusing! Simply keep this in mind.
Starting plants from seed indoors breaks down to 2 factors:
Here in Kentucky, our first frost free date is supposed to be April 15th. But remember it snowed in May 2018?
My advice, would be to go by the predicted frost free date in your area, but have a plan if it gets cold again. If it gets warmer earlier than this, just consider it a bonus!
First, make a list of the plants you want to start by seed. Some plants will perform better if you start them indoors. Other plants will do better if sown outdoors. Some are just easier to buy transplants.
Ask yourself these questions when deciding how to grow each plant.
Use your frost free date only as an anchor point to go by. Some plants need cooler temperatures. Others need much warmer temperatures. My advice would be to acquire some type of chart to know when it’s best to plant outdoors.
I have Clyde’s Garden Planner which is easy and convenient to use. I keep it in the bins where I store my seeds. The chart also lists the plant’s optimal soil temperature, which is essential to know. This handy tool is inexpensive and can be purchased from Clyde’s website or on Baker Creek Heirloom.
You want to know your soil temperature, which is the best indicator telling you when to plant seeds outdoors. You can purchase a soil thermometer, or I use a meat thermometer. This one can be used as a soil or compost thermometer with its 20″ stem.
Simply take a reading where you want to plant that particular seed. It doesn’t hurt to take a reading each day for a few days to make sure the temperature is consistent. I also keep this in my seed storing bin.
Pepper plants are slow to mature, and would require starting indoors very early. I don’t eat a lot of peppers and usually only grow 2 plants. It is worth it to me to purchase 2 plants in April for $5 instead of trying to grow them from seed.
Onions store well over winter and so I go through a lot of them. Onions also take a very long time to mature from seed. I also wouldn’t have room to start 50 plants. It is worth it to me to purchase a bundle of 50 onion transplants from an onion grower for $11 instead of trying to grow them from seed.
On the other hand, tomatoes are very easy to grow from seed quickly. I also want to grow select varieties, which are much easier to find by ordering a seed packet. However, tomatoes can take a while to produce fruit, so I want to get them off to an earlier start. It’s a lot cheaper and doesn’t take much effort to start my tomatoes by seed indoors in order to get them going early.
Lastly, lettuce is easy to grow and likes the colder spring weather. So, I can choose to start some indoors to get a really early start. I can also direct sow some later outdoors too. I like to grow lettuce in successions, so I can harvest it at intervals.
Clyde’s Garden Planner. Clyde sent me this planner for free to try. He didn’t ask for anything in return, just to simply try it out. I think it’s a handy tool, so I offered to write a blog post and include it.