Successful backyard farmers know that plants have different cold temperature hardiness and heat tolerances, and that the "plant the veggie patch in one day" approach of so many home gardeners doesn't yield as large and robust a harvest as staggering sowings throughout the growing season.
The back side of seed packets is full of information, yes, but there's an easier way! Thanks to online interactive tools, mapping out when to start seeds indoors and when to transfer seedlings outside has never been so fun. These calculators use decades of horticultural study and weather data to personalize your planting calendar. Here are some of our favorite online tools.
The first order of business is to establish the last frost date in your area. Undoubtedly the best resource is a sage gardening neighbor who knows all about the microclimates and quirks of your hood. Lacking a neighbor almanac, the website Dave's Garden (click here) will provide frost information when you enter your ZIP code.
|Logo and materials from johnnyseeds.com used with permission.|
Armed with your last frost date, you can now access the fantastic calculators at Johnny's Seeds. This is a screen shot that shows the results for my last frost date of May 15. The table lists crop name, a range of when to start indoors, and when I can plant outside. On the full webpage you will see a note attached to the asterisks (*): Usually direct-sown, but may be started indoors. The table continues far beyond the crops in this view, with flower listings as well.
Click web address by image to go to the site and generate your own table:
Johnny's also as a feature to determine how many seeds or plants you need to fill your space. You enter crop and row length. Click here for seed-spacing calculator.
If you want to hone your garden planning process even further, check out Johnny's tools for succession planting and target harvest date. Both are available here. The latter would be especially helpful, say, if you desire to finish canning tomatoes before a scheduled trip. (Definition of travel: the thing I hear other people get to do!) These calculators open as Excel spread sheets.
What are your favorite seed-planning strategies?
I wish all of you happy planting, indoors and out. Isn't spring glorious? Here's a parting shot of the first bloom from my soil-less indoor tulip project. See, they will grow!