Ask the master gardeners
Q: This year I would like to start some vegetable plants from seed. How many weeks before transplanting should I start them?
A: Starting your own plants from seed gives you more choices about what you can grow, but it is very important to know when to plant your seeds.
The seed packets provide the time frame needed to start your seeds indoors. Check how many weeks are required before transplanting your seedlings outdoors, keeping in mind that the last expected frost date in our area is May 15.
It is also important to know the number of days until harvest, to be sure that the vegetables will ripen before the first frost. If, for example, you want to start broccoli (Brassica oleracea) from seed, you should start them 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date. Tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) require less time, usually 5 to 7 weeks before the last frost date.
You also want to make sure the seedlings are ready for outdoor conditions before planting them in the garden. Do this by hardening the plants for about two weeks — move them to a shaded area outdoors and then gradually to a sunny location during the day, by increasing the length of exposure with time.
Lisa Klein, Suffern master gardener, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland