We’re running a little late this year on selecting vegetable seeds and getting them ordered; but now that I’ve created our annual seed starting and planting schedule (see below), I can keep us on track. It helps me keep focused on buying seeds, starting transplants, getting supplies, and making sure the garden beds are prepared on time.
I start with my schedule from the previous year (see Making 2011′s Seed Starting & Planting Schedule), copy it to a new spreadsheet tab, consult my notes from last year’s garden, and then work up the new plan. I’ve included a downloadable template (2012 Seed Starting & Planting Template) if anyone wants to start with my basic Excel spreadsheet and modify it for your planting zone. I’ve included the number of weeks to start seeds before setting outside (column 2) and the number of weeks before or after the last spring frost date for transplanting to the garden (column 3) to make it easier for creating schedules.
2012 Spring Seed Starting & Planting Schedule
Making Your Own Seed Starting and Planting Schedule
To make a schedule for your garden, just take the Excel spreadsheet and adjust the “Last Spring Frost” column to reflect the week of the last spring frost (orange column or week of May 7 in my schedule) for your location. Next, identify the appropriate first planting (FP) date for each vegetable. For example, since peas are very cold tolerant, column 3 identifies they can be put out 6 – 8 weeks before the last spring frost. So, in my schedule, peas can be put out the week of March 19 – April 2, six to eight weeks ahead of my week of May 7 last spring frost date.
Once you’ve got your first planting dates, you can establish the dates for starting seedlings indoors (SI) for those vegetables that you intend to transplant. So, using peas again, column 2 says they should be started indoors 3 – 4 weeks before setting out. Based on that, I backed up three and four weeks and identified that peas should be started indoors the weeks of February 20 or 27. For those vegetables that are directly sown outdoors, only the first planting dates need to be established – like the radishes in my schedule.
Now, I like to know approximately when production will start (#) for each vegetable. To do this, find the days-to-maturity number for each variety (should be on the seed packet), divide by seven for weeks, and move forward that many weeks on the schedule to identify when your plants will start producing. So, using my pea example again, my earliest are identified as 52 days-to-maturity which means about 8 weeks. Counting 8 weeks forward from my February 27 seeding date puts me at April 23 for the earliest production.
Once you’ve identified when production will start for each vegetable, then indicate about how long it will continue based on the first planting. Using peas again, once the peas start producing, they should continue for a couple of weeks, so I show that by indicating pea production the weeks of April 23 through May 14. For vegetables that will continue to produce until frost, indicate with “# until frost —>” as shown for chard, beans, etc.
Congratulations, you’ve got a handy schedule for planting your garden, and if you keep notes and tweak it each year, it will only get better.
This year, I’m again being aggressive on our seed starting and planting schedule; based on last year’s experience and the fact that the USDA has now revised our Zone to 6A. I want to get things out to the garden as soon as possible, and to really improve production, I’m also starting to really pay attention to faster maturing varieties – they can drastically improve when production actually starts.
That’s the great thing about taking the time to create a schedule like this; it can be adjusted from year-to-year, so you can get better at timing things. This year, I want to really focus on growing greens (lettuce, spinach, etc.) and it looks like I better get busy, I should be starting spinach now!