When To Start Vegetable Seeds Indoors In New York City

Posted on Mar 1 2010 - 6:18am by Mike Lieberman

Truthfully a lot of that last frost and zoning information is a bit over my head. So I had to look it up quickly.

According to the book Incredible Vegetables from Self-Watering Containers, New York City is in Zone 7 and the last frost date is sometime in mid-April. The map and legend were hard to decipher. In the video, I erroneously say Zone 8 and mid-May. Genius idea to color code a map and put similar colors side by side.

I also checked out a bunch of sites online and the only one that was somewhat coherent was the What to Plant Now guide from Mother Earth News.

It’s March and I’m in the Mid-Atlantic, so here is what you should be planting now and where. You can easily select your region.

My seed order from Botanical Interests arrived in the mail last week. It was my first order, and somewhat exciting to get the packets in my hand.

(Jayme from aHaModernLiving seemed much more happy to get her seed order than I was. Check out her post on Facebook about it.)

The back of the packet says when to plant outside, when to start inside and also gives any special sowing instructions. Apparently there is even more information on the inside of the packet as well.

In looking at the packets, I need to start them anywhere from 3-10 weeks before the last spring frost date. Some say that it’s not recommended to start indoors at all and to sow directly into the containers like cilantro. Check Perry J Post’s great insight on planting cilantro.

To be safe and realistic at this point, I’m going to plan to have everything planted by mid-May the latest and I’m sticking to it. That means I need to start these vegetable seeds with the quickness.

When do you start your vegetable seeds indoors?


25 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. shawna88 March 1, 2010 at 3:33 pm -

    My suggestion is to speak with one of your local botanic gardens – they'll have help for all this information, particularly zone info that you're looking for.


  2. truecrimson March 1, 2010 at 4:11 pm -

    Good to see you're getting started. We're right on the line seperating zone 6 and 7 so our last frost is March 30th to April 30th. We've already started a bunch of plants indoors, probably too early, but we are eager 😉

    Keep an eye on the weather reports because your last frost could be anywhere in the range, early or late. If you put your plants out too early and the weather people expect a frost you can always bring in them inside, or cover them with plastic for a night or two.

    Hey, I know you said you signed up to my RSS feed. Has it been coming through? I have no idea if it's working or not 😉

  3. Mike Lieberman March 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm -

    I've been meaning to get there forever. They have free hours on Tuesdays too. (I'm lazy)

  4. Mike Lieberman March 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm -

    I'd rather go with late than with early. Yup RSS is comin through.

  5. Ingrid Lembach March 1, 2010 at 9:36 pm -

    I live in the Boston area and I planted my seeds indoors last night (couldn't wait any longer). Today I'm still searching for good resources on small gardens and growing plants from seed, and here you are! I'm looking forward to following your progress.

  6. Mike Lieberman March 1, 2010 at 9:46 pm -

    Nice. I'm looking forward to following your progress as well.

  7. dirtygirlgardening March 2, 2010 at 12:22 am -

    I know this is about your seeds – but just wanted to say, nice hardwood floors!

  8. truecrimson March 2, 2010 at 7:40 am -

    Either way it's a guessing game as to which frost is the last 😉

    Now that I've had some rest and am a little more coherent I was wondering what starting methods you're considering for the seeds you start indoors? I've had varying degrees of luck with several methods.

  9. indoorkitty March 2, 2010 at 3:34 pm -

    Don't have a recommendation on when to start, but here's my starting system:
    1. Metal shelves in front of my sunniest window. (I've covered said window with press-on vinyl privacy frosting. I've heard you can stick bubble wrap to the window for a similar, if funkier, effect.)
    2. Heating pad from the drugstore. We keep the house at about 65, so my seeds need a little extra warmth. (I'm looking into the “real” seed starting heating mats, but for now, I just have the drugstore kind.)
    3. Florescent under-cabinet style lighting ziptied to the underside of each shelf and plugged into a timer.
    4. Random plastic takeout containers with clear lids.
    5. Jiffy peat pellets ($2.00 per box at my local Walmart.)
    6. Sharpie for labeling the containers.
    7. Clean chopstick to use as a dibbler.

    The peat pellet system is way less messy than potting soil, and by planting each seed individually I can may a standard seed packet last for years. The takeout containers are smaller than the standard seed starting flats so I can keep each variety separate. Take the cover off as soon as you have sprouts. Since different veggies have different germination times, keeping everyone separate is a big help. The jiffy pellets also mean that I can evacuate a straggler to a covered container if his brothers and sisters have all sprouted. The under-cabinet style lights are pricier than regular florescent, but they can be linked together and then plugged into one timer. Even in the sunny window, supplemental lights are really important.


  10. Jen March 2, 2010 at 7:15 pm -

    Good luck with it all!! My biggest mistake last year was using potting soil in peat pots under grow lights in a closet. The peat pots dried out too fast, the plants got leggy and then damped off. This year I'm using seed starting mix (sterile) yogurt cups in our school greenhouse and not even bothering with the grow lights. Friday's the day we start our first seeds! We're in zone 6 up here in Nyack. I figure out the start date and write it on the packet with a sharpie, then organize by date.

  11. Mike Lieberman March 2, 2010 at 7:46 pm -

    Thanks. They actually need to be swept.

  12. Mike Lieberman March 2, 2010 at 7:47 pm -

    Thanks for posting this info as starting is one of my next steps.

  13. Mike Lieberman March 2, 2010 at 7:47 pm -

    Good luck this year. I def don't have grow lights.

  14. Michael Rad March 3, 2010 at 2:48 pm -

    we've been growing mostly mint + basil herbs indoors … but living in alphabet city there are soo amazing gardens… i think its time to bring this party outdoors. thanks for the info.

  15. Mike Lieberman March 3, 2010 at 3:59 pm -

    I'm in Alphabet City too. Still too cold for the outdoors. Especially for the basil. Mine died first sign of cold weather in the fall.

  16. saraheliza_devastateboredom March 5, 2010 at 4:56 pm -

    Oh nice, I like that What to Plant Now site too… very helpful, thanks!

  17. Mike Lieberman March 7, 2010 at 2:46 am -

    I thought it was the only coherent site out there.

  18. Mike June 15, 2010 at 11:50 am -

    Hi Mike, you might know the answer to this… do you know of any shops in NYC that sell packet seeds? I know they're available on the internet, but I'm looking for shops???

    Mike Watts

  19. Mike Lieberman June 15, 2010 at 2:08 pm -

    I'm not familiar with any shops. I'll keep my eye out and let you know if I come across any though.

  20. extra large cooking pots November 13, 2010 at 8:14 am -

    This is cool! And so interested! Are u have more posts like this? Plese tell me, thanks

  21. extra large cooking pots December 4, 2010 at 8:54 am -

    Please give me more information. I love it, Thanks again.

  22. Anonymous December 20, 2010 at 7:21 pm -

    Hi! Where do you buy your seeds? On line? Where can I find vegetables seeds in New York, specially in Manhanttan?

  23. Mike Lieberman January 3, 2011 at 2:51 pm -

    I’ve sourced most of my seeds from Botanical Interests. Not sure of any specific spots in NYC where you can get seeds from.

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