It’s time to start thinking about the garden and starting seedlings (or at least getting seeds ordered); so I’ve created our annual seed
starting and planting schedule again (see below) to 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, 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 (2018 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.
The actual dates and schedules for things can vary significantly depending on the conditions each year; however, by doing this and keeping notes, you can begin to develop a pretty good feel for how your gardens schedule will go.
2018 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 April 29 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 11 – March 18, six to eight weeks ahead of my week of April 29 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 11 or 18 if I want to transplant them into the garden rather than direct sowing (to get the earliest possible peas). 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 24 seeding date puts me on April 15 for the first 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 15 through May 6. For vegetables that will continue to produce until frost, indicate with “# until frost —>” as shown for chard, beans, etc. For those vegetables only produce for a limited time, remember that you can often use succession planting to extend the harvest.
Do the above for each vegetable you’re growing and 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 being quite 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. If you need some free garden seed catalogs to select varieties from, there are links to order them on the Free Garden Seed Catalogs post.
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. Need to get busy organizing supplies soon, it’s almost time to start transplants!