Guess what? If you live Zone 7 and above March and even into April is not too late to start seeds indoors and you have the WHOLE outdoor seed planting season ahead. (Get those peas and spinach out today!) If you have no idea of the timing of seed planting both indoors and outside I will walk you through the process and offer free Seed Planting Guides for vegetables at the end of this post. These free seed starting templates are meant to be used for whatever zone you live in! I have even had someone from the Southern Hemisphere say they work for them.
So What Can You Plant?
Joking aside the peas and spinach need to go outside ASAP. They should have been out the first couple of weeks of March, but depending on how hot spring is you should be able to get a good crop of snap peas and spinach in before they wane and bolt. So now that, that is out of the way here are some things you can start indoors today to plant out in early may. Affiliate links to my favorite local seed vendor to follow! In case you want to order some of these beautiful seed packets for yourself.
Obviously, most of these plants grow well planted straight outside, but if you have a shorter season (as I do in mountainous Western North Carolina) getting an extra month can be really useful to get larger, riper, fruit. Plus who doesn’t love flowers?
How to Know When Can you Plant
When to plant your seeds indoors and outdoors all depends on the frost! You can find your average frost free day by Googling. Also the Farmers Almanac has a great list by major cities. So once you have this all important date you’ll need to know how many days before or after that date your seeds can be planted. Such as 7 days before, will tolerate light frost, -1 week, etc. Then you will also need to know how many days the transplants need to actually grow. Additionally you can factor in how long germination takes and WHOA! Are you overwhelmed yet? Trust me it is not too late to plant yet AND I am going to break this down so it is super easy! And if the breakdown still doesn’t make sense then I am going to offer you a free spreadsheet or google doc that you can just plug in numbers and get your dates! How much more simple is that?
The Magic Formula
To Plant Indoors: Frost Date + (Weeks Before Or After Frost – Weeks Needed to Grow Indoors)
To Plant Outdoors Seeds or Transplants: Frost Date + (Weeks before Or After Frost)
Let’s run through an example:
Cabbage can be transplanted. It needs about 42 days (6 weeks) of indoor growth and can tolerate frost. So we can plant it about -21 (3 weeks) days prior to the last frost free day. My average frost free date is 4/24/2016.
Indoors: 4/24/16 + (-3 – 6 weeks) = 2/21/2016
Outdoors: 4/24/16 + -3 weeks = 4/3/2016
So, are you saying?! “Ugh, math? And where do I find all this information anyway?” Well I have the answer for you. For the old school I have a printable pdf Seed Planting Guide for vegetables, flowers, and herbs so you can calculate when to start seeds for yourself. It has additional information about depth, spacing, thinning, and seed saving. You will still have to do the math and look at a calendar. Though you can use this handy website to plug in weeks and get a date.
For the New school I am offering a free spreadsheet where all you need to do is plug in your frost free date and when to start seeds, both indoors and out, just populates throughout the sheet. I also have a pared down version of the Seed Planning Guide in a Google Doc you can copy and use for yourself. I know not everyone has excel just hanging out on their computer or phone.