It’s about that time to start getting ready for gardening season. I just bought my little Jiffy greenhouse and some seeds, so I’m ready to go! I’m so excited to get my garden going again. I’ve been planning for the last month on what I’m going to grow this year and yesterday I got my seeds started indoors. Here’s how I planned everything out.
The Last Frost Date
For many states, the last frost date of the year is somewhere around April 1st. For Colorado, where I live, it’s around April 20th. Knowing the last frost date is important, because a little plant won’t survive a freeze outdoors. Check out this handy list of first/last frost dates by state from Victory Seeds to find the date for your area.
Planting Seeds Indoors
Once you know your average frost date, look at the backs of your seed package to find out how early you should plant your seeds before the last frost date. Various plants have different planting schedules, for example the carrots package I have tells me to plant 2 weeks before the last frost, but the tomatoes tell me to plant 5-7 weeks before.
You don’t want to plant too early or those veggies are going to outgrow their containers. I had this happen to me in my first year of gardening and it was a lot of work transplanting them to larger pots. I also had some crazy large plants overtaking my kitchen table and counters. It was a mess, but also a great learning experience. 😉
Not all seed packages will tell you how soon to plant the seeds indoors, but you’re generally safe if you plant them at least 4 weeks before the estimated frost date. Even 6 weeks might be fine, depending on the vegetable, but you’re pushing it if you plant any sooner than that.
I’ve purchased a somewhat large (72 plant) Jiffy greenhouse to get my plants started this year. I bought everything that I needed a couple of weeks ago when it was still too early for me to plant my seeds inside, but I wanted to get everything in order and planned.
Based on the average last frost date for my area, I’m counting back based on that date and marking in my calendar when to plant indoors. I’m actually using iCalendar on my Macbook so that it pops up a reminder on that day, but you can use a simple wall calendar if you want.
Here’s an example of my planting schedule, based on the estimated last frost date of April 20th, here in Colorado. I used this online calendar to count back from my last frost date.
Start indoors 8 weeks before last frost date – Feb. 24th
- Green onions
- Yellow onion
Start indoors 6 weeks before last frost date – March 9th
Start indoors 4 weeks before last frost date – March 23rd
- Swiss Chard
You might notice that there aren’t any root vegetables in my list, which is because root vegetables don’t like to be handled, so it’s best to directly sow the seeds into the garden.
Watch Out For a Freeze After the Estimated Last Frost Date
Weather is unpredictable. It’s impossible to know if there will be a freeze after the estimated last frost date. If you get a freeze, some of your vegetables could be toast. If you’re worried, you can plant your vegetables a little later or you can buy a cold frame. I haven’t actually used a cold frame myself, but I’ve been doing a lot of research about them recently. I’ll probably set one up over my garden near the end of the growing season to get a few more weeks out of my garden.
Plant What You Need
I’m so excited to get started with my garden this year. This is only my third year of gardening, but it has a whole new meaning to me this time. I became vegan back in July of last year, so plants are now a major part of my diet.
In the last couple of years, I sort of just planted random vegetables because they sounded good, but I found that I wasn’t using them as much as I should have. I still ended up going to the grocery store for stuff that I really needed. This time I’m only planting foods that I eat regularly. I’m not wasting space this year.
Update: If you live in Colorado, here’s a great planting schedule.
* image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/scrap_pile/3081087267/”>Scrap Pile