Time flies when you’re having fun! Or just to busy to keep track of what day it is… you know how it goes. But some things don’t wait, and the spring garden is certainly one of them. It’s high time I get the planting schedule hammered down – the peppers and tomatoes need to be started in a few weeks, and some of the flowers too.
Determining when to plant is pretty easy, especially if you’re doing a single sowing of plants. Take the average frost free date for your area, and count backwards from the transplant date for the variety in question. Take tomatoes, for example. Most varieties should be started 8-10 weeks prior to the frost free date. Here in Chicago, that date is around May 3rd. I always like to start my seeds on the longer end of the range, usually just because I can’t wait to get my hands in the dirt. But really, you should be taking the weather patterns into account. This year has been mild, so starting on the long end makes sense. But for a harsh winter that might stick around for a good while, you might err on the side of 8 weeks. That way your plants haven’t outgrown the pots and started to become leggy and weak from hanging around in the nursery too long. Make sense?
That’s the most basic way to determine a planting schedule. You should also think about when you’d like to eat your produce. If you’re going to plant 10 heads of lettuce, you don’t want all 10 maturing in the same week. You’d probably like to have 2 heads a week. So every week for 5 weeks, you’d plant 2 seeds. That way you have just the right amount of lettuce when you want it.
But for me, I’m planting a limited amount of things in containers. I’m planting four or less of each plant, so I’m not really worried about everything coming to fruition at the same time. I’m just growing for fresh eating when ever it’s ready, so I’m only doing one sowing of each variety. This is what I’ve figured out based on our average frost free date –
Tom Thumb Pea 4/15/2012
Compatto Dill 4/1/2012
Patriot Mix Morning Glory 4/1/2012
Early Jalapano 3/18/2012
Tobasco Pepper 3/18/2012
Swiss Chard 3/18/2012
Red Rocket Snapdragon 3/4/2012
Emerald Falls Dichondra 2/19/2012
We Be Little Pumpkin July 1st
So, a couple more weeks and the seed starting will begin in earnest! I’ve got some scallions in a pot at the moment – just eight or so. They’re not doing so hot since I haven’t rigged up the lights yet, but they’re holding their own. Time to start scouting deals on T5 fluorescents for real!