Please help with timing of starting seeds/planting dates

canokieJanuary 22, 2012

I am in the northwest OKC/Edmond area, and I'm trying to figure out how early I can plant different vegetables in the garden. The last two years I have planted my garden too late and didn't get much of a harvest as a result. It seems that the seed packets say after last frost for most vegetables, but from what I've been reading on this forum, most of you plant much sooner in order to beat the heat. Below is a list of what I plan to grow this year. Could you all please share with me when you usually plant these in the garden?













Onions, cooking

Onions, green

Peas, sugar snap


Pinto beans




Sweet potatoes


Also, I'm trying to start as many vegetables ahead of time as possible, so I can to get a jump start on the growing season. Below are vegetables that I'm not sure whether they can be started ahead. Could you please tell me if you can, and if yes, how many weeks prior to the plant date they should be started?










Would really appreciate any info/experiences you all can share. Thank you in advance!

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Canokie, I am not trying to avoid your question, but it has a lot of answers. I am going to link the OSU Planting Guide and it will give you a good idea of the times for planting, and some will say plants and some will say seeds. The dates given start in the SE corner of the State and go to the NW corner, so you would be somewhere in between.

I am in the NE corner and I start tomatoes and peppers from 15-20th of February. Dawn is deep south and I think she starts her's on Super Bowl Sunday. Although I start toms and peppers together, I normally hold the peppers an extra two weeks before putting in the garden because they don't do well with any cold weather.

I will be starting a lot of other things about that same time, and maybe a week before that. I will make that decision when I see what kind of February weather we are having.

I plant bulbing onions from Dixondale as plants and that will probably be around Valentines Day if that is when they arrive and my soil isn't too wet. Sometimes I buy onion sets locally which I only plant to use as green onions, but this year I decided to grow those from seed and they are under lights and about a half inch high. They are teeny-tiny plants and I have a lot planted in each small pot.

I plant edible pod peas in the Spring time somewhere between the middle of February and the first of March. If it is very wet, which it sometimes is, I may plant them inside and transplant around the first of March. If the weather is normal, I can plant them directly in the ground as seeds. Sometimes seeds will rot in cold, wet ground. The small vines can stand some cold weather, but if they get too big while the weather is still cold they may not hold up as well.

Why not study this chart, and decide what you want to plant as transplants. Some things take weeks of growing inside before you can put them outside, and other things like cukes, squash, and melons get big very quickly and would be hard to keep under lights for any length of time. Most of those things I plant from seed directly into the garden.

I only answered a very few of you questions and I'm sure others will add.

Here is a link that might be useful: OSU Guide

    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 10:47PM
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I totally re-inforce what SGM said but will add a few tips that might ... maybe ... be thoughts for consideration.

A lot of the herbs you listed can be wintersown. You're not too late to give it a shot BUT save half your seeds just in case it's a bust. Go to wintersown dot ORG for instructions. It's really easy and will alleviate some of your efforts & time. Save a few empty milk jugs and you're on your way. Also, chives are a perinnial so they are VERY hardy. I've got a good plot of garlic chives and some seed so if they don't work for you, I can help you out still early in the season.

Also keep in mind that if/when you start some of those others from seed and it turns cold late in the season - you can still keep them safe and warm for a while inside (like the cukes, tomatoes and peppers). Okra is generally a "last plant" in this zone because it's a heat lover so move that to the last of your "worry" list.

There's quite a difference between the zone you've come from and this zone - but hang in there! I've lived here almost all my life and until I found this forum...I only limped along with gardening results. This place is a wealth of information and don't forget to use the "search" engine posted on the main page! It takes some reading time, but it's well worth it. Good luck and please, keep us posted. You just may stumble upon something we all need to learn!


    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 11:14PM
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Paula, Are you winter sowing this year? I haven't started anything, but I think I will start some flowers.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 11:25PM
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Carol - yeh...I'm starting some Thyme. I've saved half the seeds just in case it doesn't "play" right. I had a wonderful bed of it when I lived in south OKC and I've sorely missed it so I'm going to try to get some started out here. I got 2 different kinds from a Swallowtail seed order I split with Ilene. I'll keep you posted! Maybe I'll have some to share at the Spring Fling!

What flowers are you thinking of? I really missed having pretty blooms around last year and I NEED to make sure I incorporate those too this year.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 11:37PM
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Haven't decided yet, but I have a ton of seeds that are several years old and need to be planted. I know I will put a few things in my veggie garden, and I would like to plant Chandra's flax seed again. I only planted a few last year so I still have plenty of seed. I thought that was a pretty plant. I also have some amaranth I want to plant, if I can find a space. Sunny spots are at a premium in my yard.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 11:52PM
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I want to echo what soonergrandma said about the OSU guide. I also want to direct you to website I linked below. I find it to be pretty accurate as to what to start when and makes it very easy. I will often hold things in the house if the soil temp. is not good yet, or if I know a storm is coming.

Here is a link that might be useful: weekend gardener grow guide

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 6:31AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I agree with the above recommendations that you consult the OSU Garden Planning Guide and follow their planting recommendations.

Planting too early is a risk, and I wouldn't do it without having a plan in place for how you will cover up your plants and protect them from a late freeze, frost or snowstorm. It is harder than it sounds. Often, it is not the mid-winter weather you have to worry about, but rather later winter or early spring weather when the plants are a larger size. For example, sugar snap peas tolerate temps into the mid-20s, or sometimes even colder, while the plants are young and small. However, if freezing temperatures hit while older, taller sugar snap peas are blooming, it can knock the blooms off the plant. Then you have to wait for more blooms to form and set peas. It doesn't ruin your chance of getting a crop, but it slows it down a bit. Broccoli tolerates a lot of cold, so you'd think you could plant it early and not worry about it. However, while exposure to temperatures that are "too cold" for it might not freeze it and kill it, it often means you'll get buttonheads----heads of broccoli that are only nickle- to quarter-sized. So, with each crop there is a reason a certain planting date is recommended and often it has to do with issues like the two I just mentioned.

I do not plant too early in general because I am in a low-lying microclimate that often is significantly colder than higher ground less than a mile away. However, I will plant a few things early as long as I have the materials on hand to cover up those plants when the inevitable colder nighttime lows threaten. I often can plant anything I want to plant "early" in February or March in a warm winter, but that's only because I have frost blankets to cover the crops, and sometimes even then they freeze. Before I started using floating row covers, I lost more plants to late freezes than I do nowadays, but they only give a certain amount of frost or freeze protection too, so you cannot expect them to provide cold weather protection if the temps are too cold.

Even starting seeds early indoors can be risky, depending on the seed-starting set-up you have because often the seedlings will outgrow the light shelf long before it is warm enough to move them outside and expect them to survive. Starting seeds early indoors is not as risky if you have a sheltered location to which you can move the ever-taller seedlings, like a sturdy cold frame, a greenhouse structure (it may need to be heated at night or on very cold days), a warm, sunny sunporch or garden room, or a high-tunnel or low-tunnel structure, which also might need a heat source at night on the cold nights.

I will try to come back tonight and address the individual crops you listed. I have to leave in a few minutes and don't have time to go into the necessary detail now.

We all get spring fever and want to plant early when January weather is nice and warm. Trust me, we all get it. However, it is risky and sometimes we get away with early plantings and sometimes we don't, so ask yourself how much of a risk you are willing to take. A friend of mine routinely plants his corn too early here, and routinely loses it to frost and has to replant. I wait a week or two later than him, and mine doesn't freeze. He doesn't mind the risk of planting early because sometimes his corn doesn't freeze, but it is a risk I am less willing to take since my microclimate gets colder than his anyway and is more prone to freeze. To a certain extent, though, you only figure out how early you can plant on your own property by trying it and keeping track of the results. Where I live, I have planted onions as early as January 1 or 2, and have gotten away with it sometimes. Other times, I plant in mid-February like I should, and lose them to April snow or to an extra-cold late-season hard freeze. So, there's always risks involved whether you plant early or on-time. I will say that it is rare that planting too late works out because we have such a brief time for plants to grow and produce before the weather gets too hot, so while I may plant too early at times, I try to avoid planting too late.

I suspect your garden's poor productivity last year had more to do with the excessively hot, dry weather than anything else.


    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 10:34AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I've linked a thread below from last year that covers the planting of cool-season crops. For each crop, I've tried to give the temperature range during which they perform the best. Between the info in it and the info in the Oklahoma Garden Planning Guide, you should be able to figure out when to plant indoors or out in your part of the state. If you have any questions after reading it, just post them and we'll try to answer. Linked within that old thread is a link to Tom Clothier's vegetable seed germination data base. When you look at it, you will notice that each variety has a temperature at which optimal germination occurs. It is very helpful data, but because our weather often goes from 'too cold' to 'too hot' seemingly overnight, you cannot wait for the optimal germination conditions for all cool-season crops or you'll be putting the seed into the ground too late.

If you so choose, you can start virtually anything and everything indoors. However, root crops are not real crazy about being transplanted, so with those, if you start them indoors, you should use a plantable pot of some sort. You can use soil blocks (Carol can tell you about them if you have questions), peat pellets, coir pellets, peat pots, cowpots (made from cow manure) or paper cups with the bottoms cut out (this allows the root crop to grow right down through the bottom of the cup without having to fight its way through the paper portion) or cardboard tubes, like those you get with rolled paper products like paper towels, wrapping paper and toilet paper.

Keep in mind that starting seeds successfully indoors generally requires a light shelf, although some people may have sunny windows with a southern exposure that allows for seeds to be started on the window sill. Also, everything started indoors is not exposed to wind and sun, so must be very carefully hardened off before being planted in the ground, and that can be a labor-intensive process. Also, in our climate we often are hardening-off indoor-raised seedlings just when are winter and spring winds are at their highest levels, and it is difficult at times to shelter the plants well enough that they survive being hardened off.

Here's what I usually do with the crops you listed:

BEETS: Direct sow in the ground in early February'

BASIL: Start seeds indoors around or shortly after the time I start tomato and pepper seeds, which usually is Super Bowl weekend. Transplant into the ground in April.

BROCCOLI: I usually start the seeds indoors in late Feb. or early March and transplant into the ground when the plants are almost 5 weeks old, but the timing varies depending on how cold it is outside. With broccoli, I have better luck planting it just a tiny bit late, and almost no luck if I plant too early, but that might be because of my extra-cold microclimate.

CANTALOUPE: Start seeds inside in April and put into ground when soil temps are at the right range for them, which means early May most years.

CUCUMBERS: Start seeds inside in March or direct sow in April

CARROTS: These can be quite vexing. I usually direct sow them in March or April, but it varies a lot from year to year depending on what the soil temps are. I have started them inside both in cardboard tubes and bottomless paper cups and transplanted them out, but didn't get an earlier crop of a larger crop despite that, so am not sure it is helpful.

CHIVES: Are perennial here in our garden, so once you plant them, you'll likely have them forever. The first year I planted them, I sowed seed directly into the ground in January and the plants sprouted almost immediately. They are ridiculously easy to grow and I am careful to not allow them to go to seed, or the volunteers will pop up everywhere in large numbers.

DILL: I direct sow this in February or March. It is another one that is ridiculously easy. Just plant the seed and it will grow, and it does better in the cool season than the hot season.

LETTUCE: I start inside in January and transplant outside in February. I hope to sow seeds of lettuce into a flat tomorrow while it is raining here. Lettuce is very easy, and I transplant the plants out while they are still very tiny--just a few days old.

OKRA: A true heat lover that will germinate very slowly in cold soil, if at all. I usually start okra seed inside in plantable pots in April and transplant outside after the soil is good and warm and all danger of a late frost is past, which for me means about the end of the first week of May.

ONIONS, COOKING: I usually plant them no later than mid-February. I am hoping to plant my onions today.

ONIONS, GREEN: Like chives, are ridiculously easy from seed. You can plant them inside in flats in early January or direct sow them in January or February. Either way works just fine.

SUGAR SNAP PEAS: I am careful with these because there's no point in planting them too early if late freezes are going to set them back. I start them indoors in early March and transplant them outside in mid- through late-March in a warm winter, or in late-March through early April in a colder winter. Getting an early start when possible is nice, but temps below freezing can freeze back the growing tips or knock the blossoms off the plants even after they've been in the ground a month or more, so I am careful not to put them out too early. To get the best harvest possible here, I need to be harvesting them in May before the onset of serious heat in June. I usually pull them out in June and replace them with something else.

PEPPERS: I start their seed indoors along with tomatoes on Super Bowl Sunday in an average year. Since this is a warmer than average winter, I hope to sow pepper seeds into flats tomorrow. I started tomato seeds in flats (some of them, I still have others to do) over the weekend, and already have tiny plant sprouts emerging from the soil. While tomatoes tolerate cold air temps right down close to freezing, peppers are not as cold-tolerant, so I usually put tomato plants into the ground in March or early April and then plant pepper plants from 2 to 4 weeks later depending on what my soil temps and air temps are doing outside. Peppers, and especially hot peppers, that are exposed to temperatures that are too cold for their liking will not necessarily die, but often remain stunted and unproductive for months, so I don't transplant them early.

PINTO BEANS: Cannot tolerate cold soil temps or air temps so plant these only after the danger of frost is past, usually in April.

POTATOES: Very cold hardy while underground, but tender foliage can be frozen back repeatedly by late frosts. I usually plant these in a deep trench in the ground in February, filling in the trench gradually as the plants grow, mulch them very well to keep the ground warm in cold weather and add more mulch as hotter weather approaches, and always have floating row cover on hand to cover up potato plants if freezing temps are forecast. Last year we had a hard freeze the first week of May and my potato plants were from 18-36" tall. I have no doubt they would have frozen back to the ground had I not covered them up. You will get the best production from potatoes planted at the time recommended in the planning guide, but you can get away with planting later as long as you mulch the beds well to keep the soil cooler. The drawback to planting potatoes late is that you're already digging them in pretty hot weather even if you plant on time, so if you plant them later than recommended, you'll be digging them in really hot temps, which is no fun at all.

Radishes: Direct-sow beginning in late January or early February, and sow new crops every week or two. It is better to sow a handful of seeds weekly for a staggered harvest than to sow 200 radish seeds at once, and then have to eat all those radishes in a very short time. Most people plant radish seed too close together and then wait too late to thin them. If you thin radish seed too late, they won't form radishes...just fibrous roots. You should thin the radishes when they are just barely out of the ground.

SPINACH: In our erratic spring weather, I often do not get a good spinach crop because we get too hot too early. I direct-seed it in March, or save it for a fall planting.

SWEET POTATOES: If you are raising your own slips inside in sand, you can start in February or March depending on your confidence level, and have slips to plant in late April or early May. You can plant them even later, but it is best to get them in the ground in southern OK no later than mid-May for optimal production. If you are buying slips, you probably won't see them in stores until April or early May.

TOMATO: These can be started indoors in February to be transplanted into the ground in late March or early April. If you want larger plants at transplanting time, start your seed in January. We often have late cold spells around Easter, and occasional frosts as late as the first week in May, so be prepared to cover them up on any night when a freeze might be possible. I have had my tomato plants freeze back to the ground on a night when the forecast was for a low of 50 and the actual low hit 32, so take your forecasts with a grain of salt. I always look at my temperature shortly before sunset once I have tomato plants in the ground and if it seems lower than it ought to be at sunset, I run outside and throw row covers over the plants. I should be able to put tomato plants in the ground here the last week in March, but because of our low-lying area and its tendency to go colder than expected, I often wait until the first or second week of April. Some people who are much farther north than I am likely can plant in late March if they are not in a low-lying area.

If you will watch this forum, you'll see many of us 'announcing' things like "I planted my peas outside today" or whatever, and you can use that as your guide. When the folks down south are putting seeds or transplants in the ground, that's a clue to those farther north that their planting time is rapidly approaching. Keep in mind too that portions of eastern OK warm up about the same time as southern OK, so gardeners there sometimes can plant a bit earlier than a southern gardener in a low-lying area where the cold hangs on a little bit. You just have to experiement and see what works best for you.

Hope this helps,


Here is a link that might be useful: Tips on Planting Cool Season Crops

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 9:35AM
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great answer

Here is a link that might be useful: Starting Seeds Indoors

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 2:55PM
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