Spring is the time to start the garden and put your January plans into action--but when is the right time to begin planting?
This is not a simple question because it depends on where you live and what it is you want to grow. One way to get your questions answered is to find a local seasoned gardener that has been successfully gardening in your area for years and pick his/her brain. Most gardeners love to talk and share their experience.
Seed catalogs and seed packets offer a lot of good information and instruction.
The information generally given includes: Ideal temperature for germination, average germination time, light requirements, planting depth, number of days from planting to harvest and ideal pH.
Seed and plant catalogs will also indicate the hardiness of the plant and by knowing your Hardiness zone (the yearly minimum temperatures) you will know if a particular plant will, or should, grow and produce for you. Again, your local gardener can help a lot with this.
As a general rule, if you want to start seeds for transplanting into the garden, they should be started 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost. Almost all seeds can be sown directly to the garden, but a controlled environment provides better germination, particularly for delicate flower seeds.
Seeds are generally more cold hardy than the plant they produce and some plants are able to endure cold and still thrive.
After a long and snowy winter it is hard to resist the urge to start seeds, but we need to be careful not to start too early. Starting too early results in leggy and weak plants; a mistake I make all too often. When it comes to vegetables, in a zone 7 or above, many or most plants are not significantly benefited by early starts and do just as well or better by sowing directly in the garden.
My garden is in zone 7. Cool weather vegetables can be sown in the garden in mid March, or as soon as the soil is workable. Some of these are: Carrots, Leeks,Onion, Parsnip, Radish, Rutabaga, Turnip, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chard, Kale, Kohlrabi, lettuce, Peas, Spinach and more. They will take a little longer to germinate in the garden, but keep them moist and they will be fine. These are cool weather plants because they will germinate at cooler temperatures and the plant can survive frost. Many, if not all, of these will actually produce year after year if they are allowed to go to seed.
Warm weather plants include: Potatoes, Corn, Tomatoes, Squash, Cucumber, Peppers, Melons and there are others. These are warm weather plants because once they have germinated, they do not tolerate frost very well; in fact, if they do get nipped, it might be a good idea to replant. However, of these, the only ones I would start early indoors are Tomatoes and Peppers. The others germinate well when planted after the first of May; when the daytime soil temperature reaches 70 degrees. Even these will winter over in the garden and germinate in the spring. Some of my best tomatoes have come from volunteer plants from the previous year.
When planting seeds indoors or out, the planting depth, as a rule, is twice the thickness of the seed. Many flower seeds are too small to determine the depth and should not be covered. The planting instructions on the packet will say if they should be covered or not.
I know this is general information, but I hope it is helpful. If you have specific questions feel free to message me and I will do what I can to answer or find the answer.