Knowing which seeds to start indoors and when to start seeds indoors can be confusing. In this article, you will learn which crops are best direct-sown with seeds in the garden, and which crops can be started indoors to get a jump on the growing season

To help you know when to start the seeds inside, I’ve included a seed-starting guide for low-desert gardeners. This chart (at the end of the article) includes dates to begin sowing seeds indoors so they will be ready for transplanting at the right time.

When to Start Seeds Indoors: A Seed-Starting Guide for Low-Desert Vegetables

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for more information.

When you learn how to start seeds indoors and start them at the correct time, you can have the advantages of growing from seed combined with the advantages of adding transplants directly into your garden.

6 Tips for Growing Vegetables from Seed

1. Understand the advantages of starting from seed

Starting garden vegetables from seed has several advantages. Seeds are often much less expensive than purchased transplants. There is also a greater variety of options when you are starting from seeds. When you grow from seed, you aren’t limited to planting what your local nursery or big box store has in stock. 

Arguably the biggest benefit is that plants grown from seeds can be planted at the optimal planting time for your location. Planting at the correct time is crucial for success. 

Wondering which seeds to use? I link to my favorite seeds for many of the vegetables. Just click on the name of most of the vegetable to go to the seeds. 

Seed-Starting Guide for Low-Desert Vegetables: When to Start Your Seeds Indoors

2. Understand the advantages of using transplants

Planting transplants in the garden has advantages as well. 

  • Long-season crops like tomatoes and peppers need the head start that planting a transplant provides.
  • Transplants are convenient, easy to use, and give you more predictable results than starting from seed.
  • Planting transplants gives you harvest sooner.
  • Transplants are also more resistant to damage from pests and insects than tiny seedlings. 
Seed-Starting Guide for Low-Desert Vegetables: When to Start Your Seeds Indoors

3. Learn which crops need to be direct sown in the garden

Some crops do best when directly seeded into the garden rather than starting seeds indoors and planting transplants. The roots of these crops do best when left to grow undisturbed.

Crops like garlic and potatoes aren’t planted from seeds but from actual garlic cloves and sprouted potatoes, so they also do best when directly sown into the garden. 

Seed-Starting Guide for Low-Desert Vegetables: When to Start Your Seeds Indoors

4. Learn which seeds can be sown indoors and transplanted outside

Vegetables with a long growing season are often started indoors and then transplanted outside for the best chance of success. 

Here is a link to my favorite seed starting supplies on Amazon. 

Long growing-season vegetables grown best from transplant: 

Still other seeds are slow to germinate and do best when started under optimal growing conditions inside, such as:

Seed-Starting Guide for Low-Desert Vegetables: When to Start Your Seeds Indoors

Although some crops have definite preferences about being sown in the garden or indoors, others will grow fine when planted either way

Vegetables that can be started from seed or transplant include:

Seed-Starting Guide for Low-Desert Vegetables: When to Start Your Seeds Indoors

5. Start seeds indoors at the right time

When you learn how to start seeds indoors and start them at the correct time, you can have the advantages of growing from seed combined with the advantages of adding transplants directly into your garden at the best time. 

Seed-Starting Guide for Low-Desert Vegetables: When to Start Your Seeds Indoors

Use the following chart to determine when to start seeds indoors for your low-desert garden so they will be ready to plant at the correct time for your growing season.

 

Vegetable 

(days from seed to transplant)

Start seeds indoors

Plant transplants outside

Armenian cucumber* (3-4 weeks)

January 15 – June 15

February 15 – July 15

Artichoke (8 weeks)

October 15 – March 15

January 15 – May 15

Asparagus (10-12 weeks)

August – November

November – February

Beets* (4-6 weeks)

August – February

Sept. 15 – March 15

Bok Choy (4-6 weeks)

July – January

August 15 – February

Broccoli (4-6 weeks)

August 15 – December

October – January

Brussels sprouts (4-6 weeks)

July 15 – October 

September – November

Cabbage (4-6 weeks)

September 15 – December

October – January

* indicates best started outdoors directly from seeds. If started indoors, transplant carefully and do not disturb roots.

Seed-Starting Guide for Low-Desert Vegetables: When to Start Your Seeds Indoors

Vegetable 

(days from seed to transplant)

Start seeds indoors

Plant transplants outside

Celery (10-12 weeks)

July – September

October – December

Cantaloupe* (3-4 weeks)

January 15 – June 

February 15 – July

Cucamelon (3-4 weeks)

February – March

July 15 – August

March – April

August 15 – September

Cucumber* (3-4 weeks)

February – March

July 15 – August

March – April

August 15 – September

Eggplant (8-10 weeks)

January – February

May – June

March 15 – April 15

July 15 – August 15

Ground cherry (6-8 weeks)

December 15 – January

May 15 – June 15

February 15 – March 

July 15 – August 15

Kale (4-6 weeks)

September 15 – December

October  – January

Kohlrabi(4-6 weeks)

September 15 – January

October – February 15

Leeks (8-10 weeks)

November

July – September

January

August 15 – October 15

Lettuce (4-5 weeks)

September – January

October – February

Luffa* (3-4 weeks)

January 15 – March 15

July 15 – August 15

February 15 – April 15

August 15 – September 15

Malabar spinach (4-6 weeks)

January 15 – April

March – May

Mustard (4-6 weeks)

July 15 – January

September – February

* indicates best started outdoors directly from seeds. If started indoors, transplant carefully and do not disturb roots.

Seed-Starting Guide for Low-Desert Vegetables: When to Start Your Seeds Indoors

Vegetable 

(days from seed to transplant)

Start seeds indoors

Plant transplants outside

Onions (8-10 weeks)

October – December 15

December – February 15

Peppers (8 weeks)

December 15 – January

May

February 15 – March

July

Pumpkin* (3-4 weeks)

February

June – July 15

March

July –  August 15

Roselle hibiscus (4-6 weeks)

February – April

March 15 – May

Spinach (4-6 weeks)

August 15 – January

October – February

Swiss chard(4-6 weeks)

August 15 – January

October – February 15

Summer squash* (3-4 weeks)

January 15 – March 15

July 15 – August 15

February 15 – April 15

August 15 – September 15

Tomatillo (6-8 weeks)

December 15 – January

May 15 – June 

February 15 – March 

July 15 – August 15

Tomatoes (6-8 weeks)

December 15 – January

May 15 – June 

February 15 – March 

July 15 – August 15

Winter squash* (3-4 weeks)

February

June – July 15

March

July –  August 15

* indicates best started outdoors directly from seeds. If started indoors, transplant carefully and do not disturb roots.

6. “Harden off” seedlings before transplanting them in the garden

Seed-Starting Guide for Low-Desert Vegetables: When to Start Your Seeds Indoors

You’ve worked so hard to get your seedlings ready to plant in the garden. Don’t forget this last step. It is very important  to “harden off” seedlings before planting them into the garden. This allows them to adjust to the different conditions outside gradually rather than all at once. 

To “harden off” seedlings, begin by taking them outside to a shady location during the day and bringing them inside at night. Expose them to a little bit more sunlight each day for a few days. Plants that are “hardened off” correctly adjust better when planted out in the garden.

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When to Start Seeds Indoors: A Seed-Starting Guide for Low-Desert Vegetables
When to Start Seeds Indoors: A Seed-Starting Guide for Low-Desert Vegetables
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2 comments on “When to Start Seeds Indoors: A Seed-Starting Guide for Low-Desert Vegetables”

  1. Angela, this is incredibly helpful! I was really unsure about how long many of the plants should grow indoors and hence when they should be started in order to plant outside at the correct time. Thanks for the chart!

    • So glad it was helpful. I found myself wondering and figured others had questions about it as well. Thanks for letting me know. Best of luck with your garden.

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