Helpful Resources for Seed Starting & Spring Garden Planning

Garden planning can be daunting, especially when you’re a newbie.  What to plant?  When should I start it indoors?  When to transplant?  What the heck is an average last frost date?  These resources make it easy to know exactly what you should plant and when for your region.  

Planning Your Garden Shouldn’t Be Stressful!

When I started gardening, my kitchen table was a mess of seed packets and notes.  I tried Excel spreadsheets, even homemade databases (the engineer in me, you know), but never came up with a good method.  Thankfully, a couple of web resources make it easy.  

(Note:  I’m not affiliated in any way with any of the companies mentioned here, but I’ve used each resource personally and have found all of them helpful.)

What to Plant Now (by Region & Month)

This simple tool is one of my favorites and comes to you courtesy of Mother Earth News.  Simply choose your region from the list, and then choose the current month.  It gives you a simple list of veggies and herbs that you can start indoors, sow outdoors, or transplant.

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For example, right now in my region, I can start broccoli, onions, cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers indoors; and I can transplant asparagus and rhubarb outdoors.

Find Your Average First & Last Frost Date

Nearly every garden seed packet has planting instructions that reference your first or last frost date.  How do you know what frost dates are for your region?  

Those tiny colorful maps on the back of your seed packet aren’t much help, especially if you’re on the border of two zones, or in a high elevation.

Fortunately, the NOAA has put together an extremely good list of average last frost dates by state and then by city.  Simply select your state, and a PDF with all of the major weather stations & cities pops up with frost data.  

You’ll find last and first frost dates grouped by probability (90%, 50 %, and 10%).  For example, in my area, theres a 90 % chance of temps below 32 degrees until April 21st.  But there’s only a 10% chance of 32-degree temps after May 30th.

Increase Yields by Using Companion Planting

Did you know that planting certain plants nearer to one another can repel pests, attract beneficial insects, and increase yields?  

Companion planting is an entire subject unto itself, and is very worth your consideration when planning your garden.  

A classic example of companion planting is pairing tomato plants with marigolds:  the marigolds discourage insects and nematodes that would harm the tomato plants.


Marigolds protect against many different pests in the garden (Image courtesy Arty Guerrilas on Flickr)

How do you determine which plants to place near each other, and which plants to keep apart?  There are a couple of great lists and resources that I’ve used in the past.

What resources do you find helpful when planning your garden each spring?

I’d love to hear about them!  Please leave a comment and let me know!


About Stacie

Stacie Humpherys is an engineer, graphic artist, and farmer who lives on her very own petite farmstead just outside of Middleton, Idaho. Say hi on Twitter.


  1. Danielle says:

    I’m starting my first garden this year in Northern Alabama. I’m afraid I’m totally clueless except for having read Mel Bartholomew’s All New Square Foot Gardening. Thanks for providing all the resources above. It’s too much for me to process this year (I have read a little, try a little, read a little more, try a little more, etc….) but I’m looking forward to putting the information into practice as I continue.

    • Stacie says:

      Hi Danielle,
      Welcome to the world of gardening! Mel’s book is a great place to start. As you’ve read, he encourages you to start small, which is great when you’re a beginner. If you have any questions as you embark on your gardening journey, feel free to shoot me an email, and I’ll be glad to help. Best wishes! Stacie x

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