Sowing Timeline for Vegetables

These dates are distilled from 36 years trial and error in my gardens, where my results have highlighted best timings for best results.

You can sow these vegetables at different times and they will grow, but the outcomes will be different, such as lower yield, more pest and disease, perhaps a tendency to flower rather than leaf. Hence for example I do not recommend sowing salad rocket and mizuna in the spring because it’s their flowering season, although many gardeners do and are happy with the smaller yield and insect-damaged leaves, compared with healthier leaves and more weeks, even months of picking, from August sowings.

Dates are based on the climate of Somerset in south west UK, USDA zone 8-9, last frost mid May and first frost mid October. They refer to sowing seeds, not planting plants.

Sowing and planting

These two words are often used interchangeably, which causes confusion. On this page at least, sow refers to seeds, from celery to tomato to garlic, even potato. Plant refers to setting out a plant with leaves.

  • How big your plant is when you set it in the ground is your call.
  • I recommend planting small ones of average 4 weeks since sowing, except for tomatoes, aubergines etc.
  • Always plant before the roots have used all available compost and before you see leaves going yellow or purple (lack of nitrogen mostly).
  • Older plants take more time to establish so you lose cropping time in the end.
  • Use fleece/row covers in spring to help young plants establish.
  • Fleece reduces light by 15-30% but in spring this does not matter, because there is a surplus of light, and fleece converts some of the surplus to otherwise-absent warmth. Result: net gain.

Undercover and outside/outdoors

Seeds require more warmth to germinate than plants need to grow. I recommend sowing “undercover” where it’s warmer: windowsill, electric propagator, greenhouse, anywhere warm.

After about two weeks as new leaves grow fast, most plants need full light as much as or more than warmth. So look to move them from windowsill to greenhouse/polytunnel/cold frame.

All sowings I recommend in February and early March, until tomatoes, are frost tolerant. So they will survive frost in a greenhouse say, as seedlings.
I put with warmth for seedlings/plants that are killed by frost AND need extra warmth to grow.
  • Planting “outdoors” means setting plants in the ground, as opposed to sowing seeds in a greenhouse or polytunnel. This page is about sowing and does not have planting dates – see my Diary for more on that.

Lettuce

The common advice of “sow every two weeks” applies only if you want lettuce hearts. For loose leaves, 4-5 sowings in the whole year* suffice, when you use my method of never cutting lettuce plants, but picking outer leaves every few days. This allows a long life to each plant, see my lettuce love video for more details.
*sow undercover Feb-Mar, then 1st June, mid July (these three sowings for growing outdoors), and early September for undercover lettuce in winter.

February

Best start date is after Valentines Day when light is increasing at last, and fast.

Sow undercover broad beans, spinach, lettuce, peas for shoots, onion, salad onion, early brassicas (cabbage, calabrese, kohlrabi, cauliflower, turnips), radish, parsley, coriander, dill. With warmth aubergine, pepper, chilli – sow these by early March

Sow outside broad beans, garlic if not already

March

Sow undercover as for February plus peas, Boltardy beetroot, celery & celeriac mid month. With warmth tomatoes – sow before mid month for undercover cropping, melon at month’s end

Sow outside broad beans, garlic if not already, and after mid month sow lettuce, spinach, peas, onion, salad onion, early brassicas, parsley, coriander, dill, parsnips, first early potato late March.

April

Sow undercover as for March (except its getting late for celeriac, sow asap), leeks, leaf beet, beetroot (all varieties), chard at month’s end, tomatoes for outdoor growing. With warmth and around mid month, cucumber, courgette, squash, sweetcorn

Sow outside all potatoes, broad beans, lettuce, spinach, peas, salad onion, early and autumn brassicas, parsley, leeks, leaf beet, carrots

May

Sow undercover Courgette, French and climbing beans, leaf beet, beetroot, chard, lettuce, winter brassicas, salad onion. Plus leeks and winter squash by early May.

Swede at end May

Sow outside same as undercover, also maincrop potatoes in early May, carrots, parsnips but keep seedbed moist until germinated.

June

Sow undercover beetroot, swede, lettuce, leaf beet, chard, kale, purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower for both autumn & spring, calabrese for autumn harvests.

After solstice sow endive, chicory, kohlrabi and Florence fennel.

Sow outside same as undercover, also carrots.

July

Sow undercover Kohlrabi, lettuce, leaf beet, chard, endive, chicory, Florence fennel, chervil, coriander. Plus beetroot and savoy cabbage in first week.

After mid month, land cress, wild rocket, Chinese cabbage and spinach.

At month’s end, mustards, pak choi, salad rocket, turnips – though first week August is often better.

Sow outside same as undercover, and carrots until mid July.

August

Sow undercover endive and Florence fennel until 10th, lettuce (late August sowings to overwinter as small plants), claytonia, oriental leaves, salad rocket, turnips multisown and true spinach.

August is fantastic for sowing salad rocket, oriental leaves and spinach. Sow by mid month in order to have vigorous harvests through autumn, sow late month for smaller plants in autumn that may overwinter more strongly.

  • chervil – coriander – dill – land cress – wild rocket -spinach by mid August for autumn cropping,
  • any salads in mid August for planting September and to grow under a cloche,
  • spinach – spring onion –  spring cabbage late August for overwintering small.

Sow outside same as undercover but approximately a week earlier

September

Sow undercover 

  • For outdoor planting to crop in autumn/winter lambs lettuce, mizuna, salad rocket,
  • For outdoor planting to overwinter small, in early September sow lettuce, spinach, chervil, coriander, dill.
  • For undercover planting sow in early to mid September all salads (includes spinach, chard mustards, kale etc which you can grow large for cooking), spring onion.

Sow outside same as undercover but a week earlier, last salad sowings by 10th September.

October

Outside sow garlic. You can also sow onion sets though I recommend caution with these as they risk harbouring mildew over winter which infects onions in May and thus reduces growth/storage potential of spring-sown onions. Spring onions sown in August, White Lisbon type, seem less prone to this.

Last sowings

Depending where you live, from early November its worth sowing broad beans to overwinter as small plants, such as Aquadulce Claudia and Monica; sowing in December is possible too, both undercover (unheated) and outside, likewise for garlic.

46 thoughts on “Sowing Timeline for Vegetables

  1. Love the new site, loads of info. Just planted up my new polytunnel with Tsai Tsai, mixed lettuce, pink chard, blue kale, broad beans and claytonia. Really exciting, can’t wait for spring😀

  2. Interesting! I’ve been keeping a garden journal for a few years and have been reviewing my results and observations. I’ve started to arrange a timeline for myself (zone 6a, northeastern US). Many of your suggestions comport with mine, except here or there I’m a week or two later to start things in the Spring and a week or two earlier for starting Fall cropping.

    Does that sound as it should be?

    1. Jen thanks for sharing this and yes, I reckon you are spot on. I guess your first and last frost dates are mid May to mid October?

      1. Yes, exactly. I’ve been watching you sowing spinach on youtube just now and I’m excited for Spring already. We’ve been having good luck with artichokes sown under lights in January so it won’t be long now! Thanks so much for the wonderful site and your reply.

  3. The new site is much easier to navigate and looks great! I started following no dig (your instruction) last year around this time and now my allotment is really turning around. It’s only my second year anyway, but it was inherited from a digger. I also have my house gardens all now no-dig. With my small children and a heavy load at the house it has really increased my enjoyment of gardening and my capacity too. Thanks!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your sowing calendar (and indeed the rest of your site, wonderful!). We’re in the north of Scotland, 35 miles north of Inverness on the east coast (57 north), but as we’re on a peninsula our frost dates aren’t that different from yours – though it doesn’t get as warm in the summer. What are your suggestions for adapting your schedule for up here, particularly as it’s so much darker for half the year?

    1. Thanks Marie, and I suggest sowing a month later in until April, maybe two weeks later in May.
      Then two weeks earlier after mid July, four weeks earlier by mid September.
      After a year of doing that, you will see where to adapt further.

  5. So enjoying poring over your site and this timeline is wonderful! A query please – we’re just taking on an allotment for the first time, unsure of which plot yet, but they range from scraggy to really overgrown. Is it too late to just cover and mulch now and expect things to be jolly by the spring, or will that likely be ok? Feeling all the more impatient as we’ll be moving out of the area next winter. Do we resort to an initial dig or start collecting cardboard? Many thanks

    1. Chris I would start now with levelling & mulchings. When you can plant depends what weds there are, how much compost.
      I would raise plants rather than sow direct, and check my video Two ways to clear weeds.

      1. Thanks – the video is really helpful. All the information and tips you provide are so empowering, there’s method in the magic. You’re an inspiration! Many thanks

  6. Hello, I am in Middle Ga in the States and I have a really hard problem with Crabgrass and I do not like to use chemicals because I have bees, I had my hubby scrape the top layers of grass off the new section of dirt and I have put rolls of brown paper down and I am getting 3 yards of compost delivered 2/6/19 to put on top of the paper. Question how thick should I spread it out and will I need to mulch it? I normally do the Back to Eden Garden method but I am wanting to try your method with the new section of garden. I have also started my onion seeds this past Saturday like you did in groups and hope they sprout.

    1. Hi Tabitha, I just looked up crabgrass and see it’s a warm season annual, dies in winter, so the seeds will not grow through your mulch of paper with compost on top. I would spread a 4 inch layer, enough to get your plantings off to a flying start, and to ensure no weeds appear from below.
      Be ready however to pull any that emerge, before they reestablish. It depends what is already there in terms of perennials like bindweed.
      Best of luck with your onions.

  7. Good Morning Charles, your very active presence on this website is a huge endorsement for the time freed up by using No Dig!
    I’ve just started my first No Dig bed in response to being told my allotment needs sorting or I’ll loose it, I was about to give it up over the relentless couch grass battle, which left me no time to grow vegetables when I was pointed in your direction.
    I’ve read through most of your website and watched quite a few of your videos, I think I’ve grasped how to get started on the beds and sowing some seeds under cover, but what then?
    Where do I plant everything?
    Do you have any guidance on planning what to plant where, once I’ve got my No Dig beds established?

    1. Thanks Cathy and plant wherever you feel like it, in blocks rather than lines is easy to manage.
      For spacings and other advice see No Dig Organic Home & Garden.
      Don’t worry about 4 year rotation, plant what you want to eat.

      1. Thanks Charles, and as it’s Valentine’s Day I’m sowing seeds undercover on my south facing 17th floor balcony greenhouse today, so I have something to plant.
        Off to get a copy of No Dig Organic Home & Garden, does it advise when to plant out or do I need to find that information elsewhere?

  8. Charles,

    We love keeping up with you from our small farm in Peyton, Colorado. Thanks for your gardening tips and all the goodness and kindness you spread. Your smile and your bright outlook on life are contagious. Thanks for sharing with all of us! Thanks to you, we’ve jumped into composting, no-dig gardening, and a host of other things. Our biggest challenge is keeping the young cows and the chickens away from it all.

    You do more good than you know, and I don’t just mean in the gardening world. Keep it up!

    With appreciation and admiration,
    Jared Haynie

    P.S. My (young) kids love your Brittish accent and especially the way you say the word “compost.” It makes them all giggle. I thought you’d get a kick out of that.

    1. Hello Jared, I am delighted to be making a difference for the better, many thanks for your kind words.
      Funny about your kids, that makes me smile and please say hello to them.
      I have other comments like being known as “Uncle Charles” in one Illinois household! I like the contact with you Americans.

    2. Jared: I agree with your assessment of Uncle Charlie…he is doing more good than he can possibly know. His kind attitude and disposition are so calming to our spirits!

  9. Hi Charles
    Really enjoying your book and diary and the wonderful videos and following your advice religiously . I have been reading the sowing timeline above as it is an invaluable resource but I think Im probably being dim here but could you clarify something that confuses me…. It says sow veg undercover in February/ March for example but then the same veg is listed in July /August and says undercover too ie. it says sow chard at end of April undercover then again in July under cover.
    I understand sowing undercover at beginning of year when its cooler, but why when its warmer later in year, are they still undercover and not straight in ground. Also does undercover mean starting them in a propagator , in both incidences before transferring as plants.
    Many thanks Pat

    1. Hello Pat
      Yes I see your point.
      Undercover in summer is about keeping pests and summer storms off, it’s a controlled environment for reliable results. Not about warmth in summer, certainly with no use of a propagator.

  10. Charles, first of all ‘Thanks” for everything that you share online – truly inspirational and a godsend for a newbie gardener like myself.
    Am preparing veg beds on a plot I took over 6 months ago, and have a question before I start sowing – which veg types do best in the shadiest areas of the garden? I’m planning spinach and lettuce, but would appreciate other suggestions. Thanks and all the best from Norfolk…..Nick

  11. Hello Charles,
    We had a traditional “dig” veg plot some 20 years ago and although it started out well we were eventually overcome by weeds when we introduced a big load of horse manure which in hindsight probably was not composted properly. It was devastating and we gave up.
    Now with Brexit and the end of the world just round the corner we thought we had better try again and I was taken with the idea of “no dig” when it came up on my youtube suggested videos back in early Feb.
    The bed has been made (£200 of compost!!!) and so have the compost bins and we have been sowing seeds like crazy, probably far too many and all the wrong sorts. It is colder here than the surrounding hampshire countryside because we are high up but here’s hoping we can at least get something back from our investment.
    THANK YOU for being so generous with your advice. It’s a rare thing these days.

      1. Thanks! My friend has just given me the wood chip from her mostly laurel hedge. So we spent today hauling about 100 x70litre bags of it to our garden. I’m not sure if I can add some of this to our compost?

  12. Hi Charles,
    Thanks for all the great advice. We have just gotten an allotment plot, it was worked last year by digging, it has next to no weeds and I was wondering if we could just cardboard the paths and compost the beds and get going? If so, given that there are staggeringly few weeds, how much compost should we use? The lack of weeds has thrown me off course as I was all ready with stacks of cardboard and plans for major weed clearing.
    Thank you,
    Louise.

    1. Great to hear Louise and yes, card even double card the paths, 2-3in compost on beds after raking level, all ready! A nice “problem”.

      1. Thank you so much for your reply, and yes, it really was a nice surprise when we saw our allocated plot. Can’t wait to get started.

  13. Hello Charles

    Thanks for this fantastic resource!

    Will living in Cumbria make a big difference to the planting timetable – and if so how long/late would you reccomend we lag behind you?

    Kind regards

    Tom

    1. Hello Tom and depending on altitude you must be around two weeks later in spring, same by midsummer then a week earlier from mid July, two weeks by September

  14. How very exciting to have come across your methods! I have already changed out the way I am doing things and see results. I am also zone 6A in the Great Lakes region of Ohio with the same frost dates. My husband and I will be making a manure run to the local fair grounds for free horse manure to try the use of building beds on top of it. Thank you so much Charles! I am binge watching your YouTube videos!

  15. I live in cold climate 3a, Canada , It is end of April and I’ve just been introduced to your method, two questions. 1. Am I to late to start this year? We don’t have long growing season, I live on acreage with tilled soil; but would love to try this method, I have tones of weeds.2. If I can what type of compost do I start with; would it be a mix and should it have manure in it? I plan on strarting just a couple beds.

    1. Never too late Kerri. As soon as snow is melting lay cardboard on the weeds, any compost is good, manure optional, keep finest compost for top layer and plant in that!

  16. Hi Charles- I have a question about even doing the no dig, with half soil and half compost. I have raised beds, in which was able to get some free dirt, that was used here in Wyoming, USA. They wash the beets, that is used for processing sugar from. So the left over dirt, is removed from the mill site, along with some sugar beets in it. It is quite smelly, (I like it! Ha! Ha!), anyway its the left over beets fermenting and breaking down. It has broken down and set for quite awhile, but quite lumpy. I have used this for the bottom, on top of cardboard and last years leaves. I have now proceeded to put composted cow manure, sheep manure and a yard care/ cow manure compost, on top of the soil. Will this be ok, to plant in? I’m going to give it a try! Any suggestions? Could one use fish fertilizer as an added food, or would this be too much, of a good thing?:} When watering later on that is? Or perhaps this would not be necessary? Thanks for giving me some insight and thought to this! Love your videos and newsletter updates! Greatly appreciated!

    1. I apologize, for the way,or the start of my above question. So sorry! I’m totally for no dig!!! I was really wondering about what I had done with the dirt, that contained fermenting sugar beets and the dirt, that came from washing the beets, at the sugar factory. Particularly, since there was fermenting beets in the dirt, at the bottom, of my raised beds. Then on top, I placed the composted manure, and yard care compost. I know that you are quite busy, at this time of year, and might not be able to give me an answer, at this time. Thanks again, for any suggestions! I do have, your diary, Vegetable Course, and How to Create a new garden. I love your books! Very thorough! Hope you have a great summer! Love Steph’s web site as well.

  17. Hi Charles! I just want to pop in and THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for sharing your method of gardening with all of us! I live in the Virginia Mountains and have the same Mid-May to Mid October growing season. I have a 99 square foot patio garden and have built a 50′ x 50′ Kitchen Garden on a vacant plot across the street from my house. You will save me so much time, so much money and so much labour to get beautiful produce all year long! I was using the Square Foot Garden method but filling the boxes in the Kitchen Garden proved to be cost prohibitive. I cannot wait to use your method to plant my fall crops! You are such a humble and informative teacher and providing a real service to a world who needs it now! CHEERS to the wise and wonderful Charles! Many Blessings! CAN IS USE SPENT POTTING MIX FROM OLD POTS UNTIL MY COMPOST GETS GOING?

    1. Well thanks Izzy, and I like how you can colonise the vacant plot.
      By all means use old potting mix as compost for new beds.
      Happy harvests
      Charles

      1. YAY! Thank you! I just ordered 2 of your books and a dibber! Can’t wait to get them and really study your method! It’s brilliant!

        No Dig Organic Home & Garden: Grow, Cook, Use, and Store Your Harvest by Charles Dowding

        Charles Dowding’s Vegetable Garden Diary: No Dig, Healthy Soil, Fewer Weeds, 2nd Edition

  18. Hi Charles,
    I have your book but it’s very useful to have a one page reference too, which is why I refer to this page often. I noticed that you don’t mention sowing parsnips in April (and also in the Which article). From the book I can’t see any obvious explanation, so wanted to check whether this is simply an omission or is there some reason not to?
    Many Thanks
    DT

    1. Thanks Davey, and it’s mainly because the strong sun in April can dry parsnip seedbeds before they germinate.
      Actually in damp weather you can sow them until June.

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