Seeds & Seedlings
Some seeds can be planted directly in the ground (direct seeding) and others require that you start them indoors and transplant them outside after the frost date.
Transplanting gives plants a head start in protected conditions. Before transplanting, harden-off seedlings by placing them outdoors out of direct sun and wind for an increasing amount of time each day for 7-10 days.
For a step by step explanation of transplanting seedlings consult the Urban Harvester.
Knowing your region’s zone allows gardeners to recognize what plants grow best in different climates. Zones are defined based on a combination of soil type, landforms, and climate conditions in a region. The Pittsburgh area is considered Zone 6B.
USDA Hardiness Zone Finder
Frost Dates for the Pittsburgh Region
Spring: May 26
Fall: September 20
Growers tend to begin planting around May 15 and end around October 15
Frost dates refer to the last frost of the spring and the first frost of the fall. The frost date is the predicted date for the last or first time the weather will dip below 32 degrees.
There are many crops you can seed directly in your garden in mid-March. Folk lore states that peas can go in the ground on St. Patrick’s Day, and we often seed lettuce, mesclun greens, cooking greens, radishes, scallions, and turnips around the same time. Most of these crops will have produced their last by the time you’ll want to plant summer crops like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and zucchini. So they make a great first step for succession plantings – where one crop follows another one in the same spot.
The Urban Harvester’s “First Crops to Seed Outdoors” provides a detailed guide to planting cool weather crops as soon as possible. For a season long guide consult the “Planting and Harvesting Chart.” If you are growing your own seedlings, check out the “Seed Starting Schedule” for information about when you should be starting different plants.
Did you know SNAP EBT can be used to purchase seeds? You can purchase seeds using SNAP at any grocery store accepting EBT. Consult the USDA website for a detailed list of permitted purchases.
East End Food Co-op
7516 Meade Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15208
Ph: (412) 242-3598
Sells organic seeds and seedlings from a variety of sources.
Garden Dreams Urban Farm & Nursery
806 Holland Avenue
Wilkinsburg, PA 15221
Ph: (412) 638-3333
Ph: (412) 362-4769
Organic seedlings can be purchased from May through mid-June at the Frick Art & Historical Center Greenhouse, Phipps May Market, and other seasonal garden events. Seedling sales support our work teaching, demonstrating, and promoting urban agriculture in Pittsburgh!
612 Allegheny River Boulevard
Oakmont, PA 15139
Ph: (412) 828-4244
1901 Brighton Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Ph: (412) 323-1116
Sells seedlings, tools, and supplies
Whole Foods Market
5880 Centre Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
Ph: (412) 441-7960
Sells seedlings and supplies
Local Native Plants
Audubon Society of Western PA, Beechwood Farms
614 Dorseyville Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15238
Ph: (412) 963-6100
Propagates native plants available at a twice-yearly sale on site.
9006 Mercer Pike
Meadville, PA 16335
Ph: (800) 873-3321 or (814) 336-2404
Specializes in native and naturalized seeds and plant material of Eastern North American ecotypes (wildflowers, native grasses, trees, and shrubs), cleaned and tested to U.S. standards.
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
Ph: (412) 421-8551 (office) or (412) 596-4989 (nursery)
Squirrel Hill resident propagates native plants, shrubs, and trees
Local Sources for Cover Crops
Recommended Reading: Marianne Sarrantonio’s Northeast Cover Crop Handbook
The Urban Harvester on cover crops.
Best Feeds Garden Centers (two locations)
Ph: (412) 487-5802
Babcock Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA
Ph: (412) 822-7777
Carries red and white clover; can order other varieties for customers
P.O. Box 279, Cottage Grove, OR 97424-0010
Ph: (541) 767-9606
Also sells various-sized frame screens for seed cleaning
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
2278 Baker Creek Road, Mansfield, MO 65704
Ph: (417) 924-8917
Bobba Mike’s Garlic Farm
P.O. Box 261
Orrville, Ohio 44667
Sells naturally grown garlic to plant
D Landreth Seed Co.
60 East High Street, Bldg #4, New Freedom, Pennsylvania 17349
For Assistance call 1-800-654-2407
Carries African American Heritage seeds
P.O. Box 520
Waterville, ME 04903-0520
Ph: (207) 873-7333 or (207) 430-1106 (from January to April, no phone-in orders)
A cooperative specializing in open-pollinated seeds and Moose Tubers (seed potatoes)
Good Mind Seeds
Ph: (724) 663-5356
All orders must be placed online.
Seven Acre Seeds
5764 Saucony Dr.
Hilliard, OH 43026
Ph: (614) 256-6298
High Mowing Organic Seed Company
76 Quarry Rd.
Wolcott, VT 05680
Ph: (802) 472-6174
Certified organic seed, specializing in northern varieties. A good source of information on seed saving guidelines and seed equipment.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
955 Benton Ave, Winslow, ME 04901
Ph: (207) 861-3900 or (877) 564-6697
Wide selection of vegetable, herb, and flower seeds with organic and heirloom offerings; catalogs for both home and commercial growers
Seeds of Change
P.O. Box 15700
Santa Fe, NM 87506-5700
Ph: (888) 762-7333
Source for certified organic and open-pollinated seed; also sells seed cleaning supplies.
Seed Saver’s Exchange
3094 North Winn Road, Decorah, Iowa 52101
Ph: (563) 382-5990
Rare and heirloom seeds
PO Box 460
Mineral, VA 23117
Ph: (540) 894-9480
Wide variety of heirloom seeds including some Southern specialties that can be grown in the Pittsburgh region
Tomato Growers Supply Company
Post Office Box 60015
Fort Myers, Florida 33906
Ph: (239) 768-1119 (customer service)
Turtle Tree Seed
Copake, NY 12516
Ph: (518) 329-3037
Offers 350 varieties of biodynamic vegetable, flower, and herb seeds.
SNAP benefits (food stamps, EBT cards) can be used to purchase seeds and seedlings. More information can be found here.
Pay postage for up to 6 free varieties (including heirloom tomatoes), plus up to an additional 50 varieties for $5 per 10 choices. The cost is $15 postage for 200 seed packs. Note: These seeds are NOT organic.
Seed Saver’s donation program
Baker Creek, an online heirloom seed vendor, has a donation program that provides seed packets to community gardens, food pantries, churches, and other nonprofits with an interest in growing food. Your organization may likely qualify for these donations, which can be as numerous as 200 seed packets.
Information and Organizations
Organic Seed Alliance
Organic Seed Alliance supports the ethical development and stewardship of the genetic resources of agricultural seed through collaborative education, advisory services, and research programs with organic farmers and other seed professionals.
Ph: (360) 385-7192
Saving Our Seed
Working with Southeast farmers and extension agents in the production of organic and heirloom seed.
Ph: (706) 788-0017
The Seed Savers Exchange
A non-profit organization of gardeners dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds.
Our own Info Hub sheet, Safe Seed.