Vegetables to start indoors 8 to 12 weeks before last frost date. Avid gardeners can’t wait to get their gardens started each spring. Because weather is still inconsistent in early spring, how do you what to plant before your last frost date and in what order?
Your last frost date is defined as the last date that you will “most likely” see a plant-killing frost in your area in the spring of each year. Because we live in different climates and elevations, this date can range widely from one state to another, and even from one township to another.
Once you live in an area for a while you’ll even find that your specific yard may have its own microclimate based on the amount of sunlight and wind it receives.
Have you ever bet on the weather, planted seedlings in your garden – and lost them all? If you are growing crops for food there is serious concern about whether or not there will be an early frost. Taking the bet means that all your hard work can be foiled when immature crops freeze.
Fortunately, there is also an absolute last frost date – which is the date after which it has NEVER frozen in your part of the world.
Typically, frost can occur when the temperature falls below 36°F, especially in rural areas. It is a localized phenomenon and can be quite variable across a small area. The National Weather Service does not keep track of “frost” exactly, but they do keep track of when temperatures hit the freezing mark or fall below.
Some adventurous gardeners push the limits on their frost dates and plant their gardens as early as possible. USDA hardiness zones classify freeze temperatures based on their effect on plants:
- Light freeze: 29° to 32°F—tender plants are killed.
- Moderate freeze: 25° to 28°F—widely destructive to most vegetation.
- Severe freeze: 24°F and colder—heavy damage to most plants.
How adventurous are you?
Would you plant your garden (or cold weather crops) if there was only a 50% chance of a moderate freeze in your area? I’ve done that in the past and I can say that it does depend on the year and how the winter has gone.
Some winters are cooler than others, but I think overall, I’ve won the battle over half of the time and turned out having a successful garden with no plant loss.
What to plant indoors 10 to 12 weeks before your last frost date
These three vegetables are slow growers and need a bit of advance planning to be ready for planting out after the last frost date.
- Asparagus, while usually grown from one-year crowns, can also be started from seed. Once established they will take a light frost, but not as young seedlings.
- Celeriac is a type of celery grown for its baseball-sized, nut-flavored roots. Start the seeds early and set them out after the temperature reaches 55F.
- Celery is one of the most challenging vegetables to grow because of its long growth cycle. Bolting is caused when it is exposed to temperatures under 55F.
What to plant indoors 8 to 10 weeks before your last frost date
If you missed planting asparagus, celeriac or celery, you can still catch up on them in these two weeks. In addition, these three vegetables are warm-weather crops that can be planted indoors 8 to 10 weeks before your last frost date.
- Eggplant needs daytime temps of 65F to 95F and if the temp dips below that they will not produce fruit.
- Leek needs a long growing season. Plant early for a summer harvest and again in the fall for overwintering.
- Sweet or Hot Peppers need heat to grow and set fruit and nighttime temps below 50F will stunt seedlings.
You may be tempted to start other warm-weather crops very early, but that would be a mistake. Holding these seedlings indoors under low light would produce lanky plants that are stressed. Wait a few more weeks and read this article to see what seeds should be started 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date.
What to plant 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date
What to plant 4 to 6 weeks before your last frost date
What to plant 3 to 4 weeks before your last frost date
How do I know my last frost date?
I’ve created a handy worksheet to help you determine your last frost date and how to use this to know when you should start specific seeds indoors. This will also help you decide on the best time to plant them outside in the garden.
Get the Frost Date Planting Worksheet for FREE
Don’t worry if you’ve missed the seed starting date, there is often still a window of time to get started. If it is not too far gone, start the seeds anyway. Most cool-weather crops can be planted in succession until the days get very hot during the summer months.
If it is getting on in the season, purchasing starts from the local nursery may be your best option this year.
The Last Frost Date Planting Worksheet works to help you know when to plant certain vegetables and herbs in your garden without danger of frost damage. Enjoy!
Now that you’ve determined your last frost date, what should you be planting right now?
The Turn Over a New Leaf Giveaway runs from December 27th at 8 am (central time) through Jan 6th at 11:59 pm.
The Giveaway has ended. I’ve collaborated with some of my online friends to bring you a terrific selection of gardening gifts in time for the new year. This giveaway has a retail value of $188. Here’s what is included:
Homesteading with Unexplained Underfoot Objects is donating a Bee Condo and Honey Bee Habitat
The Self Sufficient HomeAcre is donating a copy of the book and companion garden journal for The Family Garden Plan by Melissa K Norris PLUS a tin of Gardener’s Hand Salve
Mary’s Heirloom Seeds is donating 13 packages of Pollinator-Friendly Seeds
Shelle at Rockin W Homestead is donating 100 Eco-friendly grow bags for starting seeds indoors
The Not So Modern Housewife is donating a Microgreen Kitchen Garden Kit and Microgreen Seed Packets
Digz Garden Gloves are donating a pair of High-performance gardening gloves (in your size!)
Little Frugal Homestead is donating an Eco-friendly cleaning kit with a spray bottle and scrubber sponges
This is excellent!! I’ll definitely be saving this article for this winter/spring when I start some seeds. Thank you for the awesome info!
This would be an awesome giveaway to win – Happy New Year 🙂
nicholas l prince says
This giveaway is great! Still learning how to garden in our new area. Our biggest problem is critters, specifically squirrels, chipmunks, and a groundhog. Our zucchini and pumpkin came up and flowered, ut never developed because the wild eat them!
Those critters are always a challenge! Squirrels and chipmunks might be deterred by making a wire cage that fits over the plant. There is a recipe for Homemade Hot Pepper Spray in this post. https://rockinwhomestead.com/garden-pests/ You could try spraying your plants and see if that deters them!
Mary Beth Akers says
Very helpful post. I just now discovered your page. Looking forward to more time with you.
We just moved to a place this year where I can have an actual garden. I don’t have a lot of experience in gardening so I will be ‘playing it safe’ for a year or two but plan on learning ways like this to extend the harvest.
I grow wheat fodder for my rabbits indoors! Great articles and pictures!
Elizabeth S says
Thank you for sharing these resources. I had looked up the different zones before but never figured out frost dates (though to be fair I have usually purchased plants from the local nursery).
I’ve started seeds indoors.
Thanks for this info. Moved to IL from S. CA. and learning how to plan our garden! I also need to learn how to garden with critters. Great giveaway too.
Joanne Keith says
Thank you for the frost date worksheet …..and the awesome giveaway,,,plus all the excellent info!
Sue D says
Great info on seed starting and fabulous giveaway.
Elizabeth S says
Thank you for sharing the resources on finding out my areas frost dates. I didn’t realize how early I should start planning the planting for some plants.
Deserae F says
Thank you for the wealth of information. I have been trying to work out my seed planting planning and this article is going to be a HUGE help!
Millie Cardwell says
Awesome giveaway! Can’t wait for spring!
Wanda Horst says
Thank you for sharing such helpful information
Elizabeth S says
Although I won’t be starting seeds this year, as someone new to gardening I am finding this useful for getting an idea for plants I know I’ll want to plant and what that looks like. In some ways it will help me prioritize (minimal space for starting) but it mostly is helping with confidence so I’m not going in as naive. Also, thank you for all the chances for the giveaway
Samantha Michael says
Thank you for this!! I’m now so excited for this spring & summer.
I’m looking to build my greenhouse this year for starting my vegetables in. Any recommendations?
I don’t have a greenhouse here in Texas, but I had a big one in Oregon and I loved it. You’ll still have to plant indoors (unless your greenhouse is heated) but you’ll be able to move the starts into the greenhouse as soon as they are big enough, at least 2 or 3 weeks before last frost.
Very good information, especially since I am moving to a different growing zone soon.
Min K says
My indoor planting has been a bust, and seed planting outdoors hasn’t been much more successful. Only wild flowers worked for me.
Hi Min, it’s hard to say what went wrong. I’d be curious to know where you live and what you were planting. Maybe it’s a timing issue or a soil issue. Let me know!
Wendy Carly Perez says
Very helpful! Saving right now!
Shawn Dodson says
Now that you’ve given me a few more ideas I can’t wait to get started!!
Debra J Lucas says
This would be a great start to my garden. Thank you for this giveaway!
Thank you for the great article. Would a unheated greenhouse change the times you can start seeds each season? We put one in last spring but have not used it yet.
Ho Rob, unheated greenhouses will not be warm enough to start your seeds – you’ll still have to do it indoors. BUT, once they get big enough you can move the plants outside. I usually put mine in the greenhouse 2 or 3 weeks before last frost. The plants will love the warmth they get on sunny days and the greenhouse will protect them from frost.
Kathryn D Strickland says
Great giveaway and I love the frost dates worksheet, it is going to help so much!! Thank you!!
This is exactly the information I need. Thank you!
Elizabeth S says
Thank you for offering this prize and for all the opportunities to enter!
Liz Lindsey says
Thank you! This is such an encouragement! And the give away is generous and am grateful to those who have contributed!
Julie T says
Thank you. Nice to have all in one space!
My husband loves celery but I’ve never even tried to grow it because of it’s long season needs and our living so far north. But I may give it a try now, knowing that 12 weeks indoors might be just the boost it needs to thrive up here in Zone 4.
Thank you for the info, and also for the giveaway. That’s a great line-up of prizes.
I would love to hear more about growing celery. It is something we use regularly but have never grown. Thanks for the giveaway too!
April Grass says
Elizabeth S says
Thank you for all this great information and for the opportunities to enter the giveaway! I’m going to need to research growing celery more. That is on my list to start next year (not this year 2020 as I’m focusing on compost and getting raised beds in) but didn’t know it could be a difficult one to grow.
Thank you for the worksheet and giveaway.
I always struggle with starting plants indoors. I either do them too late or too early. This will help tremendously!
Great article. I love in Montana so we pretty much have to start everything indoors and summers are so variable. This year we had a nice long growing season, but the year before it was very short. You have to be prepared for anything.
Laura Theodore says
My husband is the gardener, but I want to grow my own micro greens. I have tried before with little success. We seem to have too many bugs outside, so I need to grow inside. Anxious to learn more.
This is a great resource, will be saving it! Also, a great giveaway! I would love to know more about those tiny grow bags! Thanks!
Thanks for the tips!
Thanks for the free worksheets & helpful info!!
Barbara H says
I don’t have much luck starting them indoors. But they’ll be all this information will help me.
wen budro says
Thank you for the great information. I definitely need to grow more veggies this season. They taste so much better from the garden.
Good to know, thanks!
Sue D says
I will have to try leeks again. I planted two years ago and not many came up and I only ended up with a few.
Elizabeth S says
Thank you again for offering this giveaway. I’m excited to hear who won, it is sure to be a blessing!