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When to Start Vegetable Plants From Seed in Michigan

Starting Vegetable PlantsI’ve gotten several comments on our vegetable garden site asking when to start vegetable seeds when starting your own garden plants.  Obviously it differs from plant to plant and according to your zone as well.  The obvious goal is to have a growing healthy plant with decent size when it’s safe to plant outside which for us here in Central-Northern Michigan is Mid to late May. I look to plant much earlier as I try to have some varieties of vegetables ready for harvest in Early June.  Saint Patrick’s day is a good mark for starting plants it’s about 8 weeks from the Middle of May and many of your transplant will need that much time.  They say 4-6 weeks but it’s more like 8, trust me.  The first vegetable plants you’ll be starting are item like peppers and tomatoes, and onions.  Onions will need to be started first followed by peppers, they take forever, and they like it hot which can be a challenge for us in March.  It’s actually supposed to be over 70 degrees today and it’s March 14th but that certainly isn’t the norm.  If you start your plants in your house you don’t have to worry about the temperature as much as you do sunlight.  If your new seedlings don’t get enough sunlight they will quickly become leggy (tall and thin) and loose their color, lack of sunlight or enough of it, is a common problem for folks starting plants indoors.

Vegetable Plants to Start In March

Peppers, Tomatoes, Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Cabbage can all be started early  and should be because they are long crops or ones that like the early cool growing season.  Broccoli for example can take the cool temperature and actually does better.  You’ll get tightly formed heads if you can get your broccoli and cauliflower planted in the ground early.  Peppers are long crops and so are most tomatoes so they need to be started from seed in March and transplanted in early to mid May depending on the weather.  Covering you newly planted transplants with a protective plastic or even a milk jug can work to get them out in the ground a little early.  We use plastic and also a mulch that help heat the ground and retains the heat over night.

Start These Vegetable Plants In April

There are many garden vegetables that are fast germinating and fast growing.  Pickles, winter squash, summer squash, zucchini, peas, green beans, and cucumbers all start quickly from seed and become ready to transplant fast.  They are also a bit more delicate and don’t do well with frost so you’ll want to start these later, I’d say about 4 week before you think you’ll be planting.  Once May comes and it warms up you can continue to start these seeds to extend your harvest season.  Once it’s warmer you’ll notice it only takes about two weeks and you have a plant ready to transplant.  Direct sowing the seed right into your garden works too and if your going to plant your garden in late May like many do, you can  plant all of these varieties directly into your garden.

Vegetable Plants That are Planted Directly in The Garden

Along with the plants I just mentioned potatoes, asparagus, pumpkins, onions, and radishes I prefer to direct sew right into the garden.  The only plant I plant from transplant usually are tomatoes, peppers, brocolli and cauliflour.  I do start all the other vegetables initially but only so I can get an early crop.  Later planting all go directly in the ground.  Planting late is the 3rd week of May thru June, early for me is April thru the 2nd week of May.  Planting seeds directly in the garden isn’t an option in April in Michigan unless you are planting under plastic in a high tunnel or green house. You have to start the seeds in soil that can reach 70 degrees plus in order get germination.

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