Garden planning: Seed starting by zones - seeds started

I have a friend who says she’s envious of my planning. Whether it’s organizing (not always successful), crafting, gardening – I’m always coming up with a plan. Lucy, on the other hand always wings it. 🙂 Then again, maybe it’s because she doesn’t have energy left to plan after working full-time+, volunteering at church, and keeping her house neat and tidy (which mine isn’t). Or maybe, it’s just the differences in our God-given talents. - seeds started

I always have to have a plan! Lists are my life. I have a need to know what events and to-do items are coming up so I can prepare for them. Need, people – like water and breathing. Please tell me I’m not the only one!!!

While Lucy goes out to her garden in early May and just plants whatever she thinks her family will eat, this is the time of year I’m all about planning and prepping. I’ve done this in the past, but haven’t really talked much about it. I have a garden map all planned out and now it’s time to start seeds. But which seeds do I start and when? (Note: this is for US planting; it may be helpful for other areas of the world, but not guaranteed).

Wisconsin plant hardiness map
Plant hardiness map courtesy of

The first step is to consider what plant hardiness zone you are in and more importantly when the last possible frost date might be. For plant hardiness zones, we’re in zone 4b.   I’ve consulted many frost tables (they’re all a bit different), and the average I’ve seen for possible last frost in our area is around April 30th.

A few years ago I discovered a website called PlantingByColor that was very helpful (sadly, this website is no longer in existence).  Once you know when your last frost dates might be, you find the color that matches their table. Just to be safe, I decided to go with the Green group in my planning. Some years, that seems optimistic. This year, I think we could have easily fit in the Yellow group – since 90%+ of our snow is melted and it’s only the beginning of March with no snow in sight!

Once your color has been determined, you just follow the color schemes to determine when you need to start seeds indoors, when they can be transplanted and when to plant directly outdoors. There is a planting schedule measured in weeks, or you can view everything for your color group. - Spring Color Groups

Now, if you’re checking up on me, the Green group actually could have started 4 weeks ago (Spring – 13). The week of March 8-14 is Green group’s Spring – 9 (that’s Spring minus 9 weeks). Spring-9 shows that I should be starting things like broccoli, chives, kale, parsley, etc. indoors. Also, it indicates that I can start a new plant this week: peas! (they like the cold)   So I may be a bit behind on some of the other plants (but still within the ideal time-frame), but right on time for peas.

Neat, right?

Now, I actually have one other little cheat I’d like to share. Once I realized that the dates would remain fixed from year to year, I went ahead and added little reminders to my online to-do list that will automatically repeat each year. There are several applications that would work for this; I happen to use Toodledo but used to do the same in RTM (Remember the Milk). Now, I don’t even have to think about when to plant – my system automatically reminds me!

toodledo gardening reminders

Oops! … perhaps not so great.  I’m seeing a discrepancy that my to-do list thinks this is Spring-7 … two full weeks earlier than the Green group.  I need to revise that and move it back at least one week (Yellow group).

On the next episode…

Before you even start planting, you really need to come up with a plan of what you want in the garden so you can gather the supplies and start the seeds you want to plant.

2 Replies to “Garden planning: Seed starting by zones”

  1. I made a big leap of faith and bought vegetable seeds in December this year, instead of pondering and waiting til Spring. And this weekend, I’m planning to go to the feed store to get some organic potting soil so I can start some seeds. But I haven’t done the math yet on which seeds to start when…so thanks for being so organized and making me think about that! 🙂

    1. Glad to be of help! I haven’t purchased seeds yet, but then again I went a little overboard last year and probably still have enough left over – except peas and beans.

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