Not counting tomatoes and squash, I have not been a successful gardener. And I would dearly love to have a productive vegetable garden. However, I am especially bad at starting my own seeds. I am also really bad at putting plants out too late in the season. Until this year! This year I have had the help of two seed-starting guides. Today I am reviewing the Clyde's Garden Planner and my local Extension Service Garden Calendar. I haven't yet transplanted my seedlings outside but already am seeing much better results!
I have never had much success at starting vegetable seeds for gardens. I also have never had much success outside of growing tomatoes and squash. It always caused me to wonder - why could I grow enough tomatoes and squash to feed a small army but nothing else. Over the past couple of seasons I have learned that successful seed starting has to do with two main things; timing related to last frost and growing conditions. Here I am reviewing two things I am depending on this year with seed starting that relates to timing related to frost dates.
My Past Garden Failures - Not Understanding Frost Dates and Growing Seasons
My gardening style had historically been to buy all of the different vegetable plants I wanted, when they are available in the store, and stick them in the ground (or containers when I lived in the apartment) at the same time. Most - if not all - of those plants died.
Because I am a procrastinator, I often planted late in the spring. I now realize that it was warm enough then for the tomatoes and squash to be happy. But the cool weather plants withered away. And the plants that needed a longer growing season never had the length of time they needed to produce their vegetable.
When I did start seeds, I would start tomatoes indoors and they sprouted despite my ineptitude. If I was lucky enough (rather than skilled enough) to place them in a south-facing window, I ended up with excellent tomato plants. Otherwise, I ended up with super tall, super thin plants that died (I know now that this is called "leggy" and it's from lack of adequate light). I found that I could start squash plants outside by putting seeds in the ground by the time I got around to it (very late spring/early summer). But plants such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and pumpkin would grow vines but no vegetable. They didn't have enough time.
I have since learned that vegetable seeds need to be started in related to frost dates. Which means the "last frost date" which is the projected last day in the spring that your area could receive frost and the "first frost date" which is the projected first day in the fall when the temperatures are lowering and frost could appear.
Last Frost Date and Counting Backward
Somewhere along the way, I learned that seed packets give directions about starting seeds. For example, my Amish Paste Tomato seed packets read "Start indoors 6-10 weeks before last frost." That's very helpful.
It is easy to do an internet search for your expected last frost date for that year. This year, mine is May 5th. But then it was a matter of using a calendar and counting back however many weeks for each thing I wanted to plant. I am not an organized type of person and this making lists from calendars and counting back was sheer madness for me.
Then I discovered Clyde's Garden Planner. Absolute relief.
Clyde's Garden Planter was the best $7 I have ever spent. It is a simple sleeve of super thick card stock folder over, holding another piece of card stock that slides back and forth. You locate your average last frost date in the spring, slide the red line indicating the last frost to that date, and voila! You can easily and quickly see the recommended planting dates (and whether it is to "seed indoors" or "outdoor planting") of 21 different plants!
Easy as that!
I cannot adequately describe how helpful this one little visual tool has been.
More advanced gardeners will appreciate that at each end of the slide there is a wealth of information such as
- how many ounces of seeds for a 10' row
- planting depth
- distance between rows
- distance between plants
- approximate produce yields per 10' row
- natural plant companions
2022 Garden Calendar - WV Extension Service
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