Winter is a perfect time to start planning your garden for next year. Filling out a calendar with seed starting, hardening, direct sow, and transplanting dates will make the whole process less stressful. To do this, first you have to decide what you want to grow. Here are several things to consider when you’re trying to narrow down your wish list:
- What do you like to eat?
- What can you grow in your zone? Determine your zone here.
- Will you be growing in full sun, partial sun/shade, or shade?
- Can you grow enough of that plant to get a big enough harvest? For example: You need about 25 bush bean plants to get enough green beans for a typical side dish.
- Do you want to save the seeds so you don’t have to keep buying them? If you do, you must buy heirloom or open pollinated varieties. Seeds from hybrids will not result in the same plant and harvest as the parent.
Making Your Calendar
After you’ve ordered your seeds, it’s time to make your calendar. You can choose to either use an app, excel spreadsheet, or go old school with a planner. I’m old school and use my super pretty Rifle Paper planner. First you need to know your average final frost date for your region. Here in Fort Wayne the average final frost is May 10. Google yours if you don’t know it already.
Now here’s where I lift the veil and reveal my shortcut to creating my calendar. My favorite seed company, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, has a super handy dandy grower’s library with loads of information and free planning tools. They even have a Seed Starting Calculator that allows you to type in your final frost date and it gives you all your planting and transplanting dates. Ta da! You’re welcome. This whole process just became a whole lot easier.
Of course they don’t have everything that you might be growing. That’s where you need to fire up the brain cells a little bit more and calculate it yourself. All you have to do is find the days to maturity on your seed’s description. That number will tell you the average time it takes to go from seed to harvest. Find your region’s first frost date and make sure your harvest will occur before then. Also, read the description to determine if your plant prefers cooler or warmer weather. If you need more help, please message me. I’m trying to keep this as condensed as possible.
Hardening. What the hell is that?
Hardening is the process of transitioning your seedlings from the safe environment of your house to the harsher world outside. If you tried to transplant them without hardening, you might as well just throw them into an erupting volcano. They’ll fry up and die and you’ll be very sad.
One week before your transplant date, make a note to begin hardening. Put them outside in the morning or late afternoon light when the sun is less intense. On the first day, leave them out for one hour, second day two hours, and so on until they’re transplanted. Make sure they’ve been watered before going outside and don’t forget about them. It’s okay to skip a day of hardening if the weather conditions aren’t favorable for fragile seedlings. They won’t be happy if you put them out in a thunderstorm.
A quick note about direct sowing. Some varieties prefer to just be plopped in the ground and you won’t have to go through this hardening and transplanting process. Read your plants’ growing instructions to determine if this is possible.
If you live in or around Fort Wayne and plan to grow some of the same stuff, here are my calendar dates.
Start Seeds: Onions
Start Seeds: Parsley
Start Seeds: Leeks, Spinach, Peas
Start Seeds: Kale, Brussels Sprouts
Start Seeds: Lettuce
Start Hardening: Peas
Start Seeds: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Beets
Start Seeds: Tomatoes, Marigolds*
Start Hardening: Spinach
Start Seeds: Peppers
Direct Sow: Radishes
Direct Sow: Carrots (if ground has thawed and dried from snow melt)
Start Seeds: Basil
Start Hardening: Lettuce, Kale, Onions, Brussels Sprouts
Start Seeds: Corn
Start Hardening: Parsley
Transplant: Lettuce, Kale, Onions, Brussels Sprouts
Cut seed potatoes and let them cure.
Start Seeds: Cucumbers
Start Hardening: Leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, beets
Plant: Seed potatoes
Start Seeds: Watermelons, Butternut Squash, Spaghetti Squash, North Georgia Candy Roaster, Pumpkins, Crookneck Squash, Zucchini, Bush Beans, Pole Beans**
Transplant: Leeks, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Beets
Start Hardening: Bush Beans, Pole Beans**, Corn
Start Hardening: Cucumber, Basil, Tomatoes, Marigolds
Transplant: Bush Beans, Corn, Pole Beans
Start Hardening: Pumpkins, Butternut Squash, Spaghetti Squash, North Georgia Candy Roaster, Crookneck Squash, Zucchini, Peppers
Transplant: Cucumber, Basil, Tomatoes, Marigolds
Transplant: Pumpkins, Butternut Squash, Spaghetti Squash, North Georgia Candy Roaster, Crookneck Squash, Zucchini, Peppers
*Marigolds naturally repel some pests. So including them in your garden can be beneficial.
**I’ll be planting a three sisters garden (more info on that later), and I will more than likely direct sow the pole bean seeds after the corn has been transplanted.