When Is It Time to Sow Seeds?

Ready to start digging? Learn some guidelines around when to plant seeds in your garden.
Sow Turnip Seeds Directly in the Soil

Sow Turnip Seeds Directly in the Soil

Photo by: DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide , 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

I’m eager to start sowing seeds in my Michigan garden, but the last thing I want is to jump the gun and end up with a bunch of dead plants.

If you’re feeling impatient like me, you might be wondering how soon you can reasonably start getting those seeds in the ground. Here are some basic guidelines:

  • Figure out your average last spring frost date. This is the date that your region usually has its last frost, and you can get your local information through the National Climatic Data Center. The chart offers three probabilities: 10 percent, 50 percent  and 90 percent. If you choose the 50 percent date, there is still a 50-50 chance of frost after that date, whereas the 10 percent entry means there’s only a 10 percent chance of frost after that date. That’s not until June 10 here, gulp!
  • Consider your crop. Many cool-season veggies, like broccoli and lettuce, can tolerate light frosts, so it’s fine to sow the seeds a couple of weeks before the last frost. Pea and carrot seeds can be sown as soon as the ground can be “worked,”  as they are quite cold-hardy. But warmer-season crops like cucumbers and melons require warm soil and higher temperatures to thrive, and a frost can easily kill them. Check seed packets for guidance.
  • Provide protection. If you get unlucky and face a freeze after your seedlings have started to emerge, there are steps you can take to protect them. A blanket or tarp laid over the plants may be enough to help them survive a frost. If you’re gardening in containers, you can bring the plants inside or move them into a garage, shed or other sheltered area. Depending on the plant, a layer of mulch may also provide added insulation.

Next Up

Sow Cool: Give Your Lawn a Head Start With Dormant Seeding

Dormant seeding is the practice of sowing grass in the winter months when grass seeds are inactive.

Instilling Sowing Sense

Confused by the fine print? Here's what those seed packet directions really mean.

How to Use Seed Starting Containers Found at Home

Get some recommendations on what to use as bargain seed-starting containers.

How to Grow Vegetable Seeds Indoors

Follow this step-by-step guide for growing tips. 

How to Sow Seeds Indoors

Tender plants and half-hardy annuals and perennials are started indoors, since they need artificial warmth or frost-free conditions. The seeds of most hardy plants can be sown indoors too, if you want closer control of germination and early growth.

How to Sow Seed in Small Pots

Sowing in small pots works well for larger seeds and where fewer plants are required.

Sowing Seeds in Trays

Growing crops from seed is simple and economical, and sowing in trays is a good idea since trays are easy to clean and fit into propagators or on bright windowsills.

How to Seed a Lawn

The best time to seed a lawn is in early fall when the soil is warm and moist. 

How to Sprout Seeds

Sprouts are seeds that have just begun to germinate, so you can grow them in only a few days. They're tasty and nutty and crunchy — and very good for you.

Why You Should Sow Wildflower Seeds This Winter

Sowing wildflower seeds while there's snow on the ground lets nature do the work.