Updated: Mar 27, 2022
Furthering down the gardening journey by using the garden calendar
In previous blogs I talked about winter sowing. Here are the links if you missed them. https://www.goshenacres.com/post/winter-therapy-winter-sowing , lunar gardening https://www.goshenacres.com/post/winter-sowing-extended and now we are going to talk about a basic knowledge that will help you not plant at the wrong time. In the spring or even late winter, I should say, is so hard NOT to plant seeds too early! This is where winter sowing is a great activity and helps curb that urge. The problem is if plants are started too early, they can get long and leggy and not become strong and healthy, many times stunted or breaking off before they can be planted outside. It is important to line up their maturity with the time frame that you want. This means knowing the length of time it will take as each variety is different. For instance, you don't want to plant a 100-day tomato seed if your growing season ahead is only 80 days. This would mean no produce and the complete disappointment to nurture a plant only to see it get froze just as the fruit is forming.
To bypass this problem, we start them early enough that they are still manageable and easy to transplant. This will change depending on your first and last frost date and is different in each area. It is easy to google and type in your zip code which then gives you both ”dates”. This is important information and is something that you need to write down for the gardening year because you will reference it A LOT. This year my last frost date is May 20th, and the first frost date is sept 21st, this gives me a 123-day growing season. I encourage everyone to get a garden planner, this is mine and it can be found below.
Don't let the “littleness” of this chart fool you, it has so much information on it! Let me show you how it works. https://www.clydesvegetableplantingchart.com/new-products/clydes-garden-planner
I pull the slide to line up with my last frost date and this is revealed. FP means first planted in the garden and si means start indoors. I am figuring out when to start my onion seeds, but it only gives me a date for onion sets. I am going to do a blog hopefully soon on onions and why we should plant by seeds instead of the sets, I hope! No date for seeds, but that is ok it just means we get to do that fancy garden math! You also need to remember that just like people, no one size fits all. This means every variety can vary in days needed to mature so it can't be a blanket starter time to be accurate. For my 2 varieties they both say that they should be started 8-12 weeks ahead of planting out. So, 12 weeks would be around February 20th, but first where is the lunar positioning at this point? Onions are a “root” crop which means I want to plant at full moon, so my options are February 16th or March 18th, now I need to decide which one is better. Since I have some time to work here, I will choose March 18th. This will give me 9 weeks and will be started on the right phase. I can winter sow these to sit and wait out in the snowbank until I go and bring them in to wake up!
Another early starter for us is tomatoes so let's figure that out. It says I need to start indoors on April 26th. This seems like such a long time to play in the dirt but have no fear! You can winter sow them and they will be there waiting just to pull them early. So, if I take that date of April 26, I then look at the surrounding lunar phase. I will look at the first quarter that comes before and after this start date and see what date I want to wake them up. The preceding first quarter date is April 9th and the one after is May 8. Based on my calendar “start by date” of April 26th I am going to choose April 9th to ensure that I have enough time to get them big enough to be strong and plant out. Now I also plant a few tomatoes even earlier that will be just my earlier eating tomatoes. By this time a good fresh tomato is just a memory from the last growing season, and they can never come fast enough! For these I will start a month earlier on March 10th. I also will pull my peppers at the April 9th to give them an extra start. Tomatoes, herbs, Peppers, all brassica's including cabbage and cauliflower and my window box flowers are the only ones that I wake early, the rest I will leave in their winter sown containers to wake up and grow on their own. I do not winter sow any root crops, squash of any type, beans, peas or leafy greens, these I will direct sow after the last frost date.
So, this is the time of the year to winter sow and build your calendar for when to pull your containers to start them. You want to choose the closest moon phase to your start date unless you have a good, protected place to keep your babies until they can make it outside. Who said you couldn't garden during the winter?!