Sowing Seeds

Starting the year, a weekly guide.

Ah, a whole year of gardening is ahead of us. January is the best time to pause, reflect and prepare for a year of incredible gardening.

OK, tired of reflecting? Here are a few winter gardening tips to keep you busy.

*Varies on zone and altitude.

January 21-31 * 11 weeks before last frost

INDOORS

  • Review our seed range to help you decide what to grow this year.
  • Check out in store and our features for gardening supplies – especially those early specials!
  • Check the number of days until harvest for each crop to decide which seeds you will start indoors:
    • Some have a long growing season so will require an early start in order to produce a crop.
    • Some can be directly seeded closer to frost date, and starting indoors will give you an early, or second crop.
    • Some are fast growers, or do not take well to transplanting, and should only be sown outdoors at the appropriate time. These include: corn, carrots, potatoes, beans, peas.
  • Many perennials are slow growers, and don’t produce flowers until their 2nd year. Others are hard to germinate; their seed packet or catalogue will tell you. Buy these as year-old plants with healthy root balls that are ready to bloom this year.
  • Herbs grow easily from seed and make wonderful border plants, so make a spot for them along the walkway close to your kitchen where they are easy to harvest. As most are harvested for their leaves, it doesn’t matter that they may not give you flowers the first year. Most herbs are perennials; others, like basil & dill are annuals.
  • Start sowing artichokes (thru mid Feb).

February, Week 1 *10 weeks before last frost

INDOORS

Start sowing: artichoke, leeks, sweet onions, oriental greens, kale & collards. Flowers: impatiens, violas, pansies.

OUTDOORS

Direct seed broad beans, also called fava beans.

February, Week 2 *9 weeks before last frost

INDOORS

Sow: asparagus, lettuce, early tomato crop, parsley, fennel. Flowers: begonias, nicotiana, petunias, sweet peas.

OUTDOORS

Sow radishes and hardy oriental greens under cover, and if you have a protected, south-facing corner, do a second planting of broad beans, or try planting peas but be prepared to re-plant.

March, Week 1 *6 weeks before last frost

INDOORS

Sow: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, peppers, & the first group of lettuces.

OUTDOORS

Sow radishes, arugula, garlic (unless you’ve sown it in autumn), corn salad, spinach & hardy oriental greens under cover. If you have a protected, south-facing wall, you can try direct planting peas. Flowers: candytuft, cornflower.

When weather permits, begin to prepare outdoor beds as soon as the ground is workable, and doesn’t turn to mud. Now is a good time to clean out the compost bins and spread the compost and manure. This early work also gets all the over-wintered weeds sprouting, so you can easily rake them out while young, and before you add your other, faster-working amendments at planting time.

March, Weeks 2 & 3 *4 – 5 weeks before last frost

INDOORS

Sow: main tomato crop, more lettuces & oriental greens, beets. Sow snapdragons, hollyhocks, wall flowers, and small-seeded annuals like marigolds, nasturtiums, lavatera and others suitable for hanging baskets. Pot up your tomatoes, planting them deep. The buried stalks will grow roots & they develop a good root system early.

Thin your crowded flats, keeping only the strongest plants. Keeping weak plants only robs the stronger ones of food and light. If your crop is smaller than you’d hoped, sow again for a late-season harvest.

OUTDOORS

Direct seed meslcuns (arugula, corn salad, cress, etc.), transplant kale & collard, & more radishes (under cover). If you plant parsnips or other late root crops, try interspersing them among the radishes so you get the fast crop and save space while keeping the top soil loose while the slow germinating roots get going.

March, Week 4 – end *3 – 4 weeks before last frost

INDOORS

Sow cucumbers, summer squash, pumpkins, melons, more broccoli & cabbage, annual herbs (basil, summer savory, marjoram, dill), poppies, black-eyed Susan, and large-seeded annuals like ageratum.

OUTDOORS

Begin hardening off your cole crop (broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc.), and snapdragons, violas, parsley. Direct seed peas (snap and shelling) in a warm location.