Indoor Seed Starting Schedule

A guest post by Elizabeth Matlin
If Kathryn’s photo of her first little sprout has inspired you to start some flower, herb or vegetable seeds indoors, here are some guidelines for a planting schedule.

Northern Illinois is in Hardiness Zone 5a with an average last frost date of May 15. (If you don’t live in Northern Illinois and want to find your Zone and last frost date, click on the link below to help find your local Cooperative Extension Service that will have this information.)  Seed planting times for specific varieties are expressed in number of weeks prior to the last frost date. Seed packets often have this information printed on the back. (For easy reference, there is also a chart below listing this information for a number of vegetables, flowers and herbs.)

Here’s an example:  According to the chart below, tomatoes are to be started 6 to 8 weeks prior to the last frost date. Counting back 6 to 8 weeks from May 15, you would plant your tomato seeds indoors between March 20 and April 3.

If you’re planting a variety of seeds with different start dates, it might be helpful to write down a simple planting schedule, listing the seed varieties and planting dates in chronological order.

For more seed starting information, check out and click on “Starting Seeds Indoors.”  Or, consult the experts at your local nursery or garden center. Have fun planting seeds and watching them grow!

Link to find your Cooperative Extension Service:

Recommended # of Weeks to Start Seeds, Prior to Frost Free Date

Vegetable # Weeks Flowers # weeks Herbs # Weeks
Artichoke 10/12 Ageratum 6-8 Basil 6-8
Broccoli 5-7 Alyssum 8-12 Catnip 8-12
Brussels Sprouts 5-7 Batchelor Button 4-6 Chamomile 8-12
Cabbage 5-7 Calendula 6-8 Chervil 6-8
Cantaloupe 3-4 Coleus 12-14 Chives 12-14
Cauliflower 5-7 Dahlia 4-6 Coriander 6-8
Celery 7-12 Daisy 6-8 Dill 6-8
Chinese Cabbage 5-7 Fuchsia 18-20 Feverfew 8-12
Collards 5-7 Godetia 4-6 Lemon Balm 6-8
Cucumbers 3-4 Impatiens 12-14 Mint 12-14
Eggplant 6-8 Lobelia 12-14 Oregano 12-14
Kale 4-6 Marigold 5-6 Parsley 12-14
Leeks 10-12 Nasturtium 4-6 Sage 6-8
Lettuce 5-7 Nemesia 6-8 Savory 6-8
Okra 2-4 Pansy 12-14 Thyme 8-12
Onion 10-12 Petunia 8-12
Pepper 8-10 Poppy 12-14
Pumpkin 2-4 Snapdragon 8-12
Spinach 6-8 Sweet Pea 8-12
Squash 3-4 Zinnia 5-6
Swiss Chard 6-8
Tomato 6-8
Watermelon 5-7

Source: article by Marie Iannotti


  1. if you are looking for more detailed information on USDA plant hardiness zones, there is an interactive USDA plant hardiness zone map at which will allow you to locate your USDA zone based on zipcode or city.

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