The Q&A Archives: When To Start Vegetable Seeds Indoors

Question: I got all these different packets of vegetables from Burpees and I would like to know when I should start the seeding process. I have the little starting pots and soil to start planting the seeds in the house.

Answer: What an adventure! The first thing you need to do is determine your average last frost date; your County Extension should be able to tell you that. (Their number is 454-0900.) Then you can figure out approximate seed starting dates from there. The exact timing can be tough because the frost date is just an average and so some years spring is "early" and some years it is "late." Also, the main reason to start vegetables indoors is to try to hurry things along but it is not always required. (The seed packets will give an indication of this.) Finally, some things can be planted out very early before the frost date while the weather is still cool, others need to be held until the weather has settled and the soil has warmed.

Here are some typical indoor seed starting time frames measured in weeks before the last frost date: broccoli, cabbage and parsley, 12 weeks; onions, 10 weeks; eggplant, peppers and tomatoes, 7 weeks; summer squash 2 weeks; cucumbers 1 week. Keep in mind that seedlings need plenty of light and also need to be conditioned gradually to the out of doors before you actually transplant them into the garden.

Good luck with your seeds!

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