When Is It Time to Sow Seeds?

Ready to start digging? Learn some guidelines around when to plant seeds in your garden.

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.
Keep Reading

Next Up

Instilling Sowing Sense

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

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.

How to Use Seed Starting Containers Found at Home

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

Why You Should Sow Wildflower Seeds This Winter

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

How to Organize Seeds

Keep every seed in its place with one of these clever seed storage tricks.

4 Great Seed Sources to Inspire You in Winter

What better way to dream of tender green things and warmer weather than by perusing bright, garden-fantasy-inducing seed catalogs?

What’s the Difference Between Hybrid and Heirloom Seeds?

It can seem mysterious, but learn why the difference is pretty simple.

When Is it Time to Plant?

Eager to plant, but aren't sure when to start? The answer lies in your soil.

Winter Sowing

Satisfy the itch to garden in January by starting seeds—outdoors. Winter sowing techniques are super easy and reliable.

How to Read a Seed Catalog

Learn the key terms and symbols and you'll be on your way to growing your best-ever garden.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.