When should I start my seeds?

seed planting

Seed starting is a great way to scratch the gardening itch which often happends during late winter. | Photo courtesy of pexels.com

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — Seed starting is a great way to scratch the gardening itch we often get during late winter. In addition to getting a head start on the growing season, there are a number of additional benefits to starting your own seeds.

Starting seeds to make your own transplants can be cheaper than going out and buying them later in the year. You also have a lot more variety to choose from when you start your own seeds compared to purchasing transplants from the store. There are hundreds of varieties compared to a handful when it comes to popular plants like tomatoes. It also allows you to grow plants you wouldn’t normally be able to find at stores, for instance, artichokes.

One common question people have is, when should I start planting my seeds indoors?

Check the seed packet

Before you get started, take some time to review your seed packets. The seed packets will provide information on whether it is recommended to start your seeds indoors or out. It will also say when seeds should be started, for example, 4-6 weeks before your average last frost date.

The seed packet should also provide information on how deep the seeds should be planted, either inside or out. They will often also include information on how many days it will take for seeds to germinate and what soil temperatures are needed for seeds to germinate best.

When should I start planting?

If you don’t feel like trying to figure out when you should start seeds, here are some general date ranges for when to start some commonly grown vegetables, herbs, and flowers in central Illinois (the last frost is usually around early May).


  • Vegetables and herbs: celery, leek, onion, parsley, rosemary, thyme
  • Flowers: dianthus, foxglove, lavender, pansy/viola, verbena


  • Vegetables and herbs: artichoke, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, kale, lettuce, oregano
  • Flowers: blanket flower, hibiscus, hollyhock, impatiens, petunia, salvia, snapdragon, statice

Mid-to-late March

  • Vegetables and herbs: basil, parsley, pepper, Swiss chard, tomato
  • Flowers: Chinese aster, celosia, bachelor’s button, cosmos, gomphrena, marigold, strawflower


  • Vegetables and herbs: okra
  • Flowers: amaranth, hyacinth bean, Tithonia

Mid-to-late April

  • Vegetables and herbs: cucumber, melons, pumpkin, squash
  • Flowers: zinnia

If you want to try your hand at a fall vegetable garden, cool-season vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale can also be started from seed indoors in early July and planted outdoors in late July to early August.

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