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Vegetable Seed Starting Dates

by chuck.mcmullan
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Different vegetables thrive in various weather conditions. Vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, melons, corn, and cucumbers like the warmer weather and will not tolerate frost. If planted before the average frost date for your area, make sure you watch the weather and protect your plants when frost is in the forecast.

Depending on the temperature, a pillowcase, or sheet, newspaper, or plastic bag should be adequate protection. For colder, “hard” frosts, plan on using a bucket or similar for improved protection. In general, it would be wise to wait to plant these more sensitive varieties until the danger of frost is gone. Even though there is no frost, the cooler temperatures will often stunt growth with some of these sensitive varieties.

There are many vegetables that do well and actually prefer cooler weather. Beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, onions, peas, and spinach can survive a light frost, and some actually prefer the cooler weather. Many cooler weather vegetables will bolt, or go to flower much quicker in warmer weather, making it more difficult to time your harvest. Check out the chart below to get a good overview of when to plant your vegetable seeds. Look at the “when to plant” section of the Garden Planning page to determine the frost-free dates for your area.

VegetableFirst Seed Starting Date (days before last frost)Last Seed Starting Date (days before last frost)Hardness Scale
Beans14 - 2880 - 1335
Beets14 - 2874 - 1042
Broccoli59 - 6693 - 1193
Brussels Sprouts45 - 80118 - 1451
Cabbage63 - 75104 - 1302
Carrots14 - 2885 - 952
Cauliflower25 - 4589 - 1404
Celery61 - 70140 - 1854
Corn4 - 1197 - 1275
Cucumber14 - 2184 - 1185
Eggplant33 - 55125 - 1775
Kale52 - 10894 - 1082
Lettuce (head)92 - 12787 - 1223
Melons18 - 21112 - 1515
Onions46 - 922
Peas35 - 5670 - 1002
Peppers28 - 35115 - 1485
Potatoes14 - 2890 - 1202
Spinach56 - 6456 - 692
Squash (Summer)14 - 2871 - 814
Sweet Potatoes43 - 57178 - 2215
Tomatoes28 - 56132 - 2025

Cold Hardiness Scale:

  1. Winter hardy
  2. Hardy to frosts and light freezes – plant as soon as the ground can be worked
  3. Can withstand light frosts, with no damage
  4. Does not tolerate frost
  5. Does not tolerate frost, warm nights (night temperature >55F)

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