Thursday, January 16, 2014

Backyard Farmer: 3 of 4 So When should I Plant This?

 So you've picked our your seeds...

And you are ready to roll! Let's get those seeds planted!

But wait...

When in the world should I start these seeds?

Very first thing...find out your "frost free day." In NJ it's around May 15 (depends on where exactly you are in the state).  This tells you when it's "safe" to plant outside.  It also helps you gauge when to start seeds inside.
Seeding Considerations
Spring and fall: There are a lot of "cool weather" items that can be planted very early in the year for a spring harvest and then again in late summer for a fall harvest.  These items are things like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and lettuces.  Early spring items need to get in the ground and growing as close to the "frost" free day as possible.

Entire Season Items:  Beets are a good example of this.  Not many things can handle both cool weather and the high heat of summer but beets will just truck along though it all.  Have I ever mentioned I love beets?

Days to Maturity:  On seed packets it will normally list a "Days" - which means how many days it should take until you can harvest said vegetable.  Some things - mostly greens have two sets of days.  An early number for example 21 days for "Baby Greens" and 45 days for "Full."  Some things are crazy long like Brussels Sprouts - 100 days.  Other items are quick, example: Radishes -30 days.  Since mother nature has a mind of her own (a girl after my own heart) it could take longer than listed.

But use the "Days" as a guide....

Since tailgate markets start beginning/mid May we get started early in the greenhouse.  Within the next two weeks we'll start planting onions from seed.  Soon after we'll start seeding cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower.  Then will come the beets and lettuces.  As soon as it's warm enough we then transplant these items in the field or in your case, backyard...or hey, if you're feeling frisky use your front yard!  Check out this garden from my Tumblr page!

transplanting lettuce from a plug flat to a bigger flat
A Great Tool is Johnny's Seeds Website
Seed Starting Date Calculator
Interactive Tools Page - this page is a wealth of resources - along with Seed Starting Date Calculator also check out Target Harvest Date Calculator

The dates to start seeds is not a exact depends a lot on weather.  Is it a cold spring? Is it raining like crazy?

Don't be intimidated by the thought of starting seeds inside.  When I first graduated from college I had a "5 Gallon Bucket Garden" behind my town house in South Carolina.

Some Dates to Know for Central New Jersey
Seeding Inside: 
Onions: first week in February
Lettuce: first week in March
Spring Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower: March
Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant: first week in March and then seed again in 3-4 rounds every 3 weeks
Fall Brussels Sprouts: late June/early July - transplant first week in August
Seeding Outside:
Spring Beets, Kale, Pac Choy, Swiss Chard, Radishes: right after Frost Free, Day weather permitting
Pumpkins: Memorial day weekend or shortly after
Fennel: Week before 4th of July - up to 4th of July

Starting Seeds in Your House: 
When I had my bucket "garden" here are the items I used to start seeds in the house:

  • clip on light - so you can have it positioned over the flat of seedlings
  • "Grow" light bulb - this is for those of us that don't have a porch
  • A flat (can find at garden center or hardware store)
  • potting soil
  • seeds
  • a little bit of patience and a lot of excitement

Here's some pictures from back in the day (please note this is before I took photography classes at Chicago Photography Classes - I would recommend classes here to anyone and everyone living in Chicago!)
seedling started inside with "Grow" light on my bedroom floor
supplies for "5 Gallon Bucket Garden" - seedlings ready to go outside
young tomato plant thriving in bucket behind townhouse
tomato plant flowers
So your seedlings're so proud.  About 3-4 weeks after starting the seeds indoors you can transplant them.  This is not a set in stone amount of time.  You will want to make sure the little babes have a solid root system.  And very importantly you will need to "harden" the plants.  This means that you start sitting them outside each day so they can adjust to the temperature and elements.  You'll set them out in the morning and bring them in at night.  You will want to do this for about a week.
me transplanting lettuce last spring
Happy Planting! 


  1. Thank you for making this wonderful post. I have recently retired and I was looking on starting a garden for myself to keep me busy. I have a little experience when it comes to growing things but the additional information that you provided is really going to help me when spring arrives. I live up north so it will be a little later in the year than you.

    Heidi Sutton @ Ag Source Magazine

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