Friday, February 10, 2012

Seed Starting Schedule for 2012

Winter in Maine this year continues to be a rather mild one. We only have a few inches of snowcover on the ground and the temperatures have been above normal. Around this time last year we had 3-feet of snow.  Outside the garden continues to rest under it's winter blanket, but inside the garden planning continues with the seed starting schedule.

Once I completed the garden layout and determined how many seedlings to plan on, I developed a seed starting schedule to help keep me organized. A seed-starting schedule provides a guideline of when to sow seeds and when to transplant seedlings the garden.


The key information to establishing the seed-starting schedule is the last expected frost date for your area. This date will be used as a starting point for your schedule.

There are various sources of finding the date such as asking your neighbors, your local nursery, extension office, or enter your zip code here at PlantMaps.com. Don't become too concerned if you find that different sources provide you with slightly different last expected frost dates. It is only an estimate and may vary from different sources, year-to-year, or even from one side of town to another. Select the average date among the sources.

I use GoogleDocs and set up a spreadsheet with the following headers: Description, # of plants, Seed Starting Date, Actual Seed Starting Date, Germination Date, Transplant Date, and Actual Transplant Date. For simplicity, I round my dates to the nearest Sunday date.

Most times, the back of the seed packages will provide instructions on when to sow your seeds indoors and when to transplant the seedlings into the garden.


For example, the Tomato seed package above says to "start seeds indoors 5-7 weeks before planting outdoors." If my last frost date is May 20th, counting 6-weeks backwards on a calendar lands me on April 8th. The seed package also let you know when to transplant the seedlings, "...after all danger of frost has past." I have tomatoes scheduled to sow April 8th and transplanted to the garden on May 27th.

In my GoogleDoc spreadsheet, I fill in the name of the seed in the description column, the number of seedlings I will need based on my garden layout, the date to sow the seeds, and the date to transplant the seedlings into the garden. I continue this for each seed included in my plan.


The spreadsheet also has areas to record the seed true seed starting date (because sometimes things don't go as planned), germination date, and true transplant date (hardening off and transplanting seedlings will vary depending on the weather).

The first year setting up my seed-starting schedule was the most difficult. The following years were much easier because I used the same schedule as a starting point and easily added/removed crops and adjusted the schedule based on my notes from the following year. For example, I found that peppers took a long time to germinate, so I moved the schedule a week earlier last year and it seemed to work better.

My 2012 seed starting schedule is posted here and in my sidebar.

20 comments:

  1. Wow what a great tool. I'm only half that organized.

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    1. Hi Lisa, I only have half a growing season compared to yours :) Winter gives me plenty of time to plan.

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  2. Someday I'll follow a schedule like that. Right now it'sretty hit or miss.

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    1. Time seems to get away from me. So having a schedule really helps.

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  3. You are so organized! Something to look up to!

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    1. I am very organized with some things. Unfortunately, not with others.

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  4. Looks good Rachel. I use a spreadsheet too. If not, I would forget to start something!

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    1. If I didn't have the schedule, I would probably be too eager and plant too early and start too many seedlings.

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  5. I hope I can be as organized as u someday. For now, I only sow when I am in the mood for it.

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    1. Nothing wrong with sowing seeds when the mood hit you :)

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  6. I do exactly this same thing using an excel spreadsheet. It helps me to stay on schedule with seed starting when things get really busy with the early season seed starting crush. You did an excellent job of walking people through the process.

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    1. I used to use an excel spreadsheet for my schedule, but I like that I can access GoogleDocs from any computer. I print out a copy and keep it in my seed starting area and jot down notes.

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  7. Hey Rachel, Would you send me an e-mail? I don't think that I have your e-mail address. I need to send you some sausage recipes!

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  8. I love planning! But I do it the old-fashioned pen and paper way with a paper calendar and my garden plan sheets. This way I don't have to be in front of a computer for even longer everyday and I feel I can fuss over it a bit more :)

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  9. We're doing exactly the same kind of planning around here. It's our first year using soil blocks. Yours look great. Pleas wish us well.

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  10. A task I need to get to! Those little lettuce starts look great.

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  11. Oooooh, such pretty seedlings. I hope you have a great spring up in Maine. I can't help but wonder what surprises this mild New England winter will bring us all over the coming months.

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  12. This is some great information about when to start seeds- I especially like the idea of setting it up in a spreadsheet (I have been keeping track in a journal and find it a little bit hard to reference back to previous years. I have just found your blog and really like all of the ideas you have about gardening and using the food from gardening.
    I am doing a short gardening series on my blog Scout's Stitches and was wondering if you would possibly be interested in doing a guest post. If you are interested you can contact me- zoer110 (at) gmail (dot) com. Thanks!

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  13. Long time no see!!

    I love how you have "seed starting date" and "*actual* seed starting date" because, let's be honest, things don't always go as planned! I feel like I'm already behind on some stuff, but thankfully those are just perennial/annual flowers, not veggies, and I've still got wiggle room on them.

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