It’s winter time… you’ve got your feet up by the fire, drinking a warm cup of something, the ground is frozen solid, there’s snow on everything, and you JUST took down your Christmas tree.
That’s no excuse to rest on your laurels! Spring is right around the corner, so get busy now! By following these few, simple steps, you can get started planning your spring garden.
What will you plant in your spring garden?
The first step is to figure out what you’re going to actually put in the garden… besides tomatoes, of course. If you don’t save your own seeds from year to year, get yourself some free seed catalogs. You can find them most anywhere on the net that sells seeds. I actually got one from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds by just emailing them and requesting a free catalog.
Next, find the seeds you need, and get them ordered now! The sooner you get them, the sooner you can get started. Since you know the what, and you’re waiting for your seeds to arrive in the mail, you’ve got time to figure out the where.
Where do you want to plant your new seeds?
By now, you probably already know what area of your yard you’re going to be planting your garden. The next thing you’ll want to do is graph it all out. You don’t have to use actual graph paper, but I’m kind of a nerd like that, so when I’m laying-out, I use graph paper. Pay close attention to how many of each plant you’re growing can go in a square foot so you can maximize your yield without overcrowding the garden.
Get started planting!
So you have your seeds, and you know where you’re planting them. The next step is actually starting the seeds. This process needs to be figured backward.
In order to know when you’ll be harvesting something from your plants, you’ll need to figure germination time (how long the plant takes to pop out of the seed and start growing roots), the approximate last frost date for your area, when the seedlings can be planted in the ground (hardening-off period), and how long until the plants are mature (actually grow fruit).
I know, that was probably a bit overwhelming, so let me give you an example:
- Scotch Bonnet Peppers
- Germination: 14-21 days
- Can be hardened-off and planted 6-10 weeks after germination
- Maturity 120 days
- Last Frost Date (approximate) in my area: March 24
Converting and calculating:
We’ll approximate the hardening-off period at 8 weeks… so 8 weeks before March 24 would be January 27. Germination takes at least an additional 14 days, so that brings us back to January 15. That means in order to get the plants in the ground around March 24, I needed to start my seeds around January 15.
For transplants, start counting days to maturity from the time you put the plant in the ground. So if I put my plants in the ground on March 24, and it takes 120 days (approximately 4 months) to mature, then I should be picking peppers like Peter Piper around mid-July.
Start Planning Your Spring Garden
See? In order to have peppers in July, you need to start in January! Of course, if you get started after January, you’ll still be fine, but your growing season will be shorter by the approximate number of days past when you should have started your seeds.
Oh… and another thing about maturity dates. While you start counting days to maturity for transplants when you put the transplants in the ground, if you sow the seeds directly, it’s a totally different thing. You start counting maturity days for direct sown seeds from the time you see germination take place.
You can’t start your seeds in the ground until the ground warms up and the days are consistently above the temperature needed to get the seeds germinated (which for scotch bonnets is around 65ºF). If last freeze is March 24, you probably can’t actually start your seeds until around April 1, which means it will be around April 15 before you have the chance of seeing germination. IF they germinate by April 15, then you MIGHT be getting peppers by August 15 (but probably closer to September).
While you can wait it out and plant seeds later, it’s best to get them started as soon as possible to maximize your growing season and get every last fruit from your labor that you can!
What are you planning for your spring garden?
Leave me a comment below and tell me what all you plan to put in your spring garden this year. I always love hearing what my readers are doing — sometimes it gives me new ideas on what to plant in my own garden!