When to Start Seeds Indoors in Zone 5 (Seed Starting Calendar) (2024)

A question we hear a lot from Homegrown Outlet customers is, “When should I start seeds indoors in Zone 5?”

Many of our stores in Upstate New York are in Zone 5, and the answer to this common question is that it depends.

First, it depends on the types of seeds you are starting. Some late-season vegetables (like tomatoes or peppers) should be started earlier. Plus, some crops (like carrots or radishes) won’t do well as seed starts. Instead, they should be started indoors at all.

Second, it depends on the variety you are growing. For example, an early-season tomato plant might benefit from direct sowing in the garden. But a late-season tomato might need a few extra weeks outdoors to maximize the growing season.

Ultimately, seed starting is one of the most rewarding gardening tasks. It allows you to pick unique varietals you won’t find in nurseries. And you can also get a jumpstart on the growing season and harvest your favorite veggies earlier.

The biggest key, however, is timing. Check out this guide for tips on when to start seeds indoors in Zone 5, which vegetables you should start indoors, and key dates for seed starting.

What Is Gardening Zone 5?

When to Start Seeds Indoors in Zone 5 (Seed Starting Calendar) (1)
Zone 5 encompasses a large part of Upstate New York, especially around the Finger Lakes.

But why is your gardening zone important for seed starting?

Essentially, the USDA Zone plant hardiness map provides gardeners with a general planting schedule for their climate. Every zone has a first- and last-frost date, for example. And this plays an important role in indoor seed starting timing.

In Zone 5, the average last frost date is May 15th (although this can vary widely, based on the microclimate of your garden). In general, you will start seeds an X number of weeks before your last spring frost.

Pro Tip. Check your zipcode more exact data on your gardening zone.

Which Seeds Should You Start Indoors in Zone 5?

You shouldn’t start every vegetable indoors. In fact, there are some that you absolutely should not start from seed.

What to Start Indoors

First, let’s look at seeds to start indoors for Zone 5. They include:

  • Warm-season crops: Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant are susceptible to cold weather. These plants do well as seed starts.
  • Cole crops: Cole crops like cauliflower, broccoli brussel sprouts, and cabbage have slow-developing root systems. They benefit from being started indoors.
  • Perennial flowers: Many perennials benefit from an early start. For Zone 5, many can be started in late February.
  • Annual flowers: Many annuals can be started as seeds. This saves you on transplants and ensures you have long-lasting color during the growing season.

What NOT to Start Indoors

OK, now let’s look at plants you should direct sow outdoors in Zone 5. They include:

  • Plants that don’t transplant well – Cucumbers, melons and pumpkins don’t like being transplanted. They’re best started outdoors after the threat of frost passes.
  • Root crops – Carrots, beets, and turnips don’t like when their roots are disturbed. These are best as direct-sow crops (or you can start in larger indoor containers).
  • Some herbs – Many herbs you can start indoors. However, dill and parsley have longer tap roots, and therefore, should be started in larger pots or direct sown.

You can also start cold tolerant crops outdoors. Peas, for example, are fast-growing and aren’t susceptible to the cold of spring. They’re best grown outdoors.

Seed Starting Calendar (Zone 5)

When to Start Seeds Indoors in Zone 5 (Seed Starting Calendar) (2)
First step: Find your exact Last Frost date.

In Zone 5b, it’s about May 15 on average. However, it can vary significantly by zip code.

Next, consult the seed package. Most seed packages will say exactly when to start your seeds indoors (typically identified as the number of weeks before last frost). For example, Beefsteak tomatoes have an 85-day growing season, and it’s recommended you start them indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost.

Here’s are some general guidelines on when to start seeds indoors in Zone 5b (where most of our stores are located):


  • Tomatoes – 4-8 weeks before last frost (March 15 to April 15)
  • Peppers – 8 weeks before last front (March 15)
  • Eggplant – 8-10 weeks before last frost (March 1 to March 15)
  • Broccoli – 7-9 weeks before last frost (March 7 to March 22)
  • Cabbage – 8-10 weeks before last frost (March 1 to March 15)
  • Brussel Sprouts – 4 weeks before last frost (April 15)

Perennial / Annual Flowers

  • Lavender – 13 to 17 weeks before last frost (January 15 to February 15)
  • Black-Eyed Susan – 6-8 weeks before last frost (March 15 to April 1)
  • Shasta Daisy – 6-10 weeks before last frost (March 1 to April 1)
  • Snapdragons – 8-10 weeks before last frost (March 1 to March 15)
  • Begonias – 8-10 weeks before last frost (March 1 to March 15)


  • Rosemary – 10 weeks before last frost (March 1)
  • Oregano – 6-10 weeks before last frost (March 1 to April 1)

Pro Tip. Start seeds indoors for Zone 5 that have a long germination period (like snapdragons).

Can you grow other plants indoors?

Overall, you can start other seeds indoors. Lettuce, for instance, is commonly started indoors to speed up time-to-harvest in spring. Herbs like basil and cilantro are also sown indoors to increase early-spring harvests.

How to Improve Germination Rates?

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Here are a few tips for starting seeds successfully:

  • Use fresh seeds – Check packed on dates, and use the freshest you have available. Another option: Reuse garden seeds that are well-preserved.
  • Pre-soak seeds – Some seeds benefit from a pre-soak before sowing.
  • Temperatures – Most seeds prefer a warm environment, between about 65 and 80 degrees. You can use a heating pad to keep your seed starting trays warm.
  • Moisture – Seeds germinate when conditions are right. They like moist soil, but not waterlogged.
  • Sowing depth – Refer to the seed package for sowing depth. Most seeds start at about a quarter-inch, with some only requiring a very tiny layer of soil.
  • Patience – Germination rates will vary, especially based on conditions. If you seeds take longer to germinate, consult the above recommendations to get conditions right.

Note, once your seeds start to germinate, you’ll want to move them under fluorescent grow lights. Generally, you’ll want to keep the lights closer to the plant, to avoid your leggy seedlings.

Hardening Off Seedlings in Zone 5

Again, the last frost date is important. Generally, you’ll want to start hardening off the plants about 10 days before the final frost. This would be March 15 for Zone 5b.

This process will prepare your plants to be transplanted into the garden. Some tips include:

  • Start 7-10 days before the last frost date.
  • Start by exposing your plants to 1 hour of outdoor time in dappled shade.
  • Protect the seedlings from wind during this time.
  • Gradually expose the plants to more outdoor time each day. On Day 10, they should spend 24 hours outdoors.
  • Use a fan or to encourage hardier root and stem growth.

If conditions are cold or below freezing, bring your plants indoors and place them under lights during this time.

Get Seed Starting Supplies at Homegrown Outlet

Stock up on the latest seed growing tools and gear at your local Homegrown Outlet location. We offer the latest in gardening tools, including:

  • Seed-starting trays
  • Seed-starting mixes
  • Indoor grow lights
  • High-quality vegetable seeds
  • Compost and nutrients (to feed your beds)

Bottom line, if you’re gardening in Zone 5, Homegrown Outlet has all you need to get faster-growing, higher-yielding vegetables and plants.

When to Start Seeds Indoors in Zone 5 (Seed Starting Calendar) (4)

Danielle Dixon

Danielle is a content writer at Homegrown Outlet. Aside from having a longtime passion for literature and writing, she is also an animal lover who enjoys crafting and watching documentaries.

When to Start Seeds Indoors in Zone 5 (Seed Starting Calendar) (2024)


When to Start Seeds Indoors in Zone 5 (Seed Starting Calendar)? ›

First or second week of March: - Start seeds of celery, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts indoors. Third week in March: - Start seeds of peppers, and tomatoes indoors.

When should I start seeds indoors zone 5? ›

A Zone 5/6 Seed Starting Schedule can start as early as January with lettuce & other greens. March & April are the months for starting most of your crops!

What month should I start my seeds indoors? ›

Planting seeds is also a great way to grow specific varieties. March is a great time to start seedlings indoors. Generally, start planting seeds indoors 6-10 weeks before the last frost date.

What flower seeds to start in Zone 5 in March? ›

Zone 5: Warm season crops like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant can be started by seed indoors under grow lights. Perennials like columbine, bellflower, globeflower, and blanket flower are also good candidates for seed-starting indoors this month, as are annuals like marigolds and zinnias.

Is February too early to start seeds indoors? ›

Even if the last thing you're thinking about in January or February is the garden, it's actually a great time to start seeds indoors for frost-hardy leafy greens and for slow-to-get-started herbs.

What happens if you start seeds indoors too early? ›

If you start too early, you might end up with leggy, overgrown plants that need babying until the frost disappears and the soil warms. Start too late, and you'll be drooling over your neighbor's BLTs while forlornly waiting for your plants' blooms to turn into fruit.

When to start zinnia seeds indoors zone 5? ›

Planting: Plant zinnias in spring after all danger of frost has passed, around the same time you'd plant tomatoes. Zinnias are easy to grow directly-seeded into the garden. For sooner blooms, start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last frost date.

Is March too early to start seeds? ›

March is the perfect time to get those tomato and pepper seeds started indoors so they can be ready for an early spring planting! Also now is a great time to start planting cool weather vegetables that can withstand those last frost days of March and April.

Is March too early for flowers? ›

March is a great time to plant hardy annual flowers that can endure the cool temperatures. Pansies, violas, and primroses are popular choices for early spring color.

Is March too late to plant wildflower seeds? ›

Traditional planting time is October through February, but wildflowers are adaptable to many different planting regimes, and there is a broad planting window, especially on the coast. Some even swear by late summer sowings, allowing the seeds the chance to bake in the sun.

Can I start seeds in January? ›

January is a great time to start planning what vegetable varieties to be grown in the garden. Look through your catalogs and find the vegetable seeds for your garden. Some flower varieties should be started in January. In a warmer environment you can plant certain vegetables, but must be ready for a frost.

How warm does it need to be to start seeds indoors? ›

Seeds require a certain temperature to germinate. Each plant has a specific optimum and a range within which germination will occur. The closer the temperature is to the optimum, the quicker germination will occur. Most seeds germinate when the soil temperature is between 68° and 86°F.

What seeds should not be started indoors? ›

6 Plants You Should NEVER Start Indoors
  1. Root Crops. Root crops simply don't transplant well. ...
  2. Squashes. Squashes (squash, zucchini, pumpkins) and cucumbers grow extremely fast and large. ...
  3. Corn. Corn typically doesn't transplant well. ...
  4. Beans. Beans grow quickly as well. ...
  5. Peas. Peas are similar to beans. ...
  6. Cucumbers. ...
  7. Lettuce.
Jul 21, 2020

What seeds to start indoors in February zone 6? ›

  • Basil (Herb) - late February.
  • Bell Peppers - early to mid February.
  • Broccoli - late February.
  • Cabbage - late February.
  • Cauliflower - late February.
  • Celery - early to mid February.
  • Eggplant - late February.
  • Kale - late February.
Feb 6, 2022

When to start cosmos seeds indoors zone 5? ›

Start seeds indoors, four to six weeks before the last frost. Or if you can sow cosmos outdoors directly in the garden well after the threat of frost is gone. Cosmos grow very quickly but can be killed by a late frost, so don't rush it.

When to plant pole beans in zone 5? ›

Those that should be planted from May to June include: Bush and pole beans. Sweet corn.


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