Yesterday we explored USDA Hardiness Zones, American Horticultural Society Heat Zones, and Freeze/Frost dates. Picking up where those tools leave off, today we'll take a look at another important tool - the Seed Starting Calculator.
After we all found our freeze/frost dates yesterday, we'll actualy be able to put them to use today. Know that for this post, I'm going to use my own area's info to keep things consistent.
In my area, my last frost date is April 27th. This is the 50% probability for 32 degrees. Because the 10% probability for 32 degrees and the 50 probability for 36 degrees are on May 10th and 11th and because I use cold frames, I'm going to simply even out the date to May 1st. This is pretty consistent with what I've seen personally anyway.
Now that I know the date, I can begin to count backwards for all of my plants to know when to set them out into the garden and, even further back, when to start the seeds indoors (either in the house or in a greenhouse).
Every seed packet has some similar info printed on it. Typically, instructions are given for how far apart to space rows, how much room to leave between plants and how long it takes the plant to mature. Also, though, and quite important for today, a guideline is given specifying how long before or after the last spring frost plants should be set out into the garden. Some plants are quite cold tolerant and can be planted outisde even if another frost or two will hit them (like peas). Other plants need all danger of frost to be long gone or else they will will die (like tomatoes).
Knowing how long before or after the last pring frost plants can be set out tells us something else important - when seeds should be started. Depending on the plant, seeds need 3 to 8 weeks of start time (unless you are planting the seed straight into the garden) before they are set out into the garden.
Now...all of this sounds like a lot of math, a lot of figuring, a lot of counting, and a lot of charting.
It used to be...
Check this out!!!
Johnny's Seeds is one of several seed saving and propogating firms in the U.S. It focuses on heirloom seeds and plants and, like the others (Seed Savers Exchange, Territorial Seeds, etc), provides many useful tools for gardeners. The one that is linked above is a seed starting calculator - it does the figuring and charting for you!!!
All you need to know is your all-important last frost date!! (This is why the date is so important - everything revolves around it)
So...using my personal example of May 1st, I get this:
It's not the easiest to read but what it outlines is, for example, that peas, while normally started directly in the garden (indicated by the asterisk), they can be started indoors 3-4 weeks before setting outside and they should be set outside 6-8 weeks before the last frost. More importnantly, actual dates are supplied!!! Peas, according to the chart, then, should be started in my area between February 6th and February 27th and should be set out between March 6th and March 27th.
Knowing these dates makes the seed starting process soooooo much easier.
Take a look at Johnny's Seed's Seed Starting Calculator for yourself so that you too can get started soon!
Tomorrow, we'll start to look at other planning software for the garden itself.