When to Start Seeds in Zone 8


While purchasing seedlings from a nursery is a great way to begin gardening, starting your own seeds expands the number of varieties you can grow and also lets you learn a new skill. And since you can start sowing seeds in January in zone eight, seed starting allows you to scratch your gardening itch while it’s still cold outside.

Before you begin planting seeds, you need to know when to put them in the soil. While the ideal planting date varies by location, it remains similar throughout individual growing zones.

I’ll explain zone eight’s climate, introduce factors you should consider when determining your planting dates, and provide a guide explaining when to plant different types of seeds. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be ready to grab your seeds and seedling trays and start planting.

Where Is Zone Eight?

This close-up captures the delicate beauty of a cluster of garden verbena flowers. The five-petaled blooms are a vibrant shade of purple, with darker veins radiating from their brown centers. The background is a soft blur of green foliage, with a few other verbena flowers peeking out of the focus.
Zone eight covers many areas of the Southeast, South, and the Pacific Northwest.

Scientists determine growing zones based on a location’s average low temperature. In the United States, growing zones range from 1–13, with 1 being the coldest and 13 being the warmest.

Zone eight includes many areas in the Southeast, South, and Pacific Northwest. Most of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas are located in this zone. Some cities in this zone include Seattle, Dallas, Little Rock, Atlanta, Raleigh, and Greenville.

What Is the Climate?

A frosty winter scene unfolds as snow blankets a moveable planter brimming with hardy greens. The leaves of kale, collards, and broccoli peek through, some curled like emerald ribbons, others smooth and jade-green. Their sturdy stalks defy the chill, a testament to their resilience in the face of winter's icy touch.
Zone 8’s last spring frost varies, usually occurring sometime in early March and April.

Since zone eight encompasses a large and varied portion of the US, the climate varies throughout this zone. While Mississippi and Alabama are known for hot and humid summers, the coastal Pacific Northwest rarely experiences temperatures above 80°F (27°C). Therefore, I recommend looking at your area’s historical weather data to determine what crops will grow best in your garden.

With that said, all zone eight areas share a unifying feature: their average low temperature. If you live anywhere in zone eight, you can expect a wintertime low somewhere between 10–20°F (-12 to -7°C). This temperature will definitely kill frost-sensitive plants like tomatoes and zinnias, and it can also harm more cold-tolerant crops like beets and lettuce.

The last spring frost date varies by location but typically occurs sometime from early March to mid-April. You can expect the first fall frost to occur sometime in November.

How to Determine When to Start Seeds

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Determine seed starting times in zone eight by assessing frost dates and consulting seed packets.

If you want to experience the joy of starting your own seeds, planting them at the right time is a key component of success! The last spring frost and first fall frost are two important factors to consider when determining when to start your seeds.

This zone is pretty much guaranteed to experience a hard frost at least once during the winter. These frosts will kill most annual plants unless you protect them with a high tunnel, cold frame, or floating row cover. Lighter frosts stick around until the end of winter or early spring.

Once you’ve determined your exact average last frost date, you can figure out when you plan to add seedlings to your garden. Cold-tolerant seedlings like cabbage, kale, and broccoli can handle light frosts, but you should wait until all danger of frost has passed to plant summer crops like tomatoes and peppers.

After establishing your ideal transplanting date, it’s time to determine when to start your seeds indoors. Remember, plants take multiple months to grow from seed to seedling! If you’re not sure how long it takes a seed to grow into a mature seedling, look at the seed packet for help. For example, the ‘Sweet Banana’ seed packet instructs you to start seeds eight to ten weeks before transplanting.

When it comes to starting fall crops, your biggest concern is the lack of daylight rather than cold temperatures. Your goal is to have fall and winter crops mostly mature by the time days dip below ten hours long. This often means getting transplants in the ground in late summer or early fall and starting in mid-summer.

When to Start Seeds

Since you can direct seed most crops in the summer, the two big transplanting seasons for this zone are spring and fall. I’ll cover when to start seeds to have transplants ready at the right time.

When to Start Vegetable and Flower Seeds for Spring Planting

Morning light caresses a cascade of fiery pink celosia, their velvety petals mimicking wispy brushstrokes. Fine, ruffled edges tipped in deeper fuchsia dance like embers, while plump centers glow with radiant warmth. Beneath, cool green leaves create a vibrant harmony that begs to be touched.
Utilizing grow lights and heating mats indoors aids early seed germination and growth.

Starting seeds in the late winter or early spring allows you to get a jump on your growing season. By utilizing grow lights and heating mats, you can create a cozy environment that helps seeds germinate and seedlings thrive.

Starting your seeds on the following dates will provide you with seedlings that are ready to plant outdoors at the right time. However, since the last frost date varies by year, make sure the danger of frost has passed before planting frost-sensitive plants outdoors.

Amaranth March 1 to April 1
Basil February 15 to March 15
Broccoli February 15 to March 15
Cabbage February 1 to March 15
Calendula February 15 to April 1
Cauliflower February 1 to March 15
Celery January 1 to February 1
Celosia February 15 to March 15
Chard February 1 to March 15
Collards February 1 to March 15
Cucumber April 1 to May 1
Delphinium January 1 to February 1
Eggplant February 15 to April 1
Fennel February 1 to March 15
Kale February 1 to March 1
Lettuce January 15 to April 15
Melons March 15 to May 1
Okra March 15 to May 1
Parsley January 15 to February 15
Peppers February 15 to April 15
Summer Squash March 15 to May 1
Tomatoes February 15 to April 1
Zinnias March 1 to April 15

When to Direct Seed Flower and Vegetable Seeds Outdoors in the Spring

 A close-up of a row of plump, orange carrots, their feathery green tops swaying gently in the breeze. Each carrot, like a buried jewel, peeks out from the rich, brown soil, its surface textured with clods and furrows. Rows of these vibrant beauties stretch across the field, a testament to nature's bounty.
Direct seeding in the garden suits crops that prefer undisturbed roots and tight spacing.

While starting seeds indoors allows you to get a jump-start on your spring garden, many crops prefer to be direct seeded. Planting the seeds straight into your garden allows you to create tight plant spacing and also works well for plants that don’t like their roots disturbed.

You can succession plant many direct seeded crops, so I’ve included a range of planting dates. You can plant your first round of seeds at the start of the range and the second round a week or two later. Or, you can plant one round of seeds anytime within the suggested range.

Arugula February 15 to April 15
Beans April 15 to July 15
Beets February 15 to May 1
Bok choy February 15 to April 15
Carrots February 15 to May 1
Cosmos March 15 to May 15
Kale February 15 to April 1
Peas February 15 to March 15
Poppies February 1 to April 1
Radishes February 1 to May 1
Spinach February 15 to April 1
Turnips February 15 to April 15

When to Start Seeds for Fall Planting

Sunlight bathes the tops of lush green lettuce plants in this overhead shot of a fall garden. The leaves unfurl like crinkled emerald ribbons, their ruffled edges catching the golden rays. Veins of a lighter shade weave through the vibrant green, hinting at the intricate network within.
Starting seeds in late summer ensures a fall harvest of cabbages and broccoli, adjusted for regional climates.

If you hope to harvest big cabbages and lush heads of broccoli out of your fall garden, you need to plan ahead! Starting seeds in the late summer allows you to get transplants in the ground so they mature before the day length dips below ten hours. If you live further north, you should start seeds near the beginning of the suggested planting dates. And if you reside in the South, you can start seeds near the end of the date range.

Before you start your seeds, take note that high temperatures can inhibit the germination of some seeds. Therefore, starting seeds indoors is often the best bet during hot summers.

Bok choy August 15 to October 1
Broccoli August 1 to September 1
Cabbages August 1 to September 1
Cauliflower August 1 to September 1
Chard August 1 to September 1
Collards August 1 to September 1
Fennel August 1 to September 1
Kale August 1 to September 1
Lettuce August 15 to October 1
Spinach September 1 to October 15

Final Thoughts

Starting your own seeds allows you to play around with growing new varieties and learn a new skill. Take a moment to plan out your seed starting calendar so you can focus on other gardening chores when things get busy.



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