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Sowing Calendar


Wall calendar | marker pen | seed packets | garden reference book



Some seeds are best planted, or sown (pronounced "SOH-n") right onto the garden soil, outside.


But many garden plants have such long growing seasons that it's best to give them a head start by getting them started indoors, when the winter winds are still howling. That way, they'll be up and running as soon as the last chance of frost has ended, and you are likely to have more weeks of harvest at the tail end of summer.


You can use the backs of seed packets, and garden reference books, to discover how many weeks ahead of time you can start various seeds indoors.


First, make two stacks of your seed packets: those that can be started indoors, and those that should be started outside.


Take the ones that should be started indoors, and a wall calendar that will now become your "sowing calendar." Count back from the date of the last possible frost in your area - often around Mother's Day in May - and go back that many weeks in your sowing calendar. Write down the date that you should sow that particular type of seed on the calendar.


Then, in the late winter and early spring, just consult your sowing calendar and you'll know what seeds you should be starting!


Good plants for indoor starts:









Many kinds of herbs

Many kinds of flowers

            What's tricky is that some of these plants can be started as seeds indoors as many as 12 weeks before you transplant them outside as sturdy little seedlings. Whoa! If Mother's Day is your approximate last-possible-frost date, that means you should start these seeds 12 weeks before Mother's Day. Yikes!


Plants that have long growing seasons before they bear fruit or blossom, such as leeks and snapdragons, probably SHOULD be started early as seeds. That way, they can mature. If you start them as seeds in the ground outside in May, they might not mature until too late to produce as much as they might otherwise.


But on the other hand, for a number of reasons, other plants - including cucumbers and sunflowers - should be transplanted just 3 or 4 weeks after you've started them from seed indoors. In fact, if you wait too long to get these seedlings transplanted and growing outside, they won't grow well.


Why is this? Seeds sprout and plants grow at different rates, so timing is very important. Check the back of the seed packet to find the recommended seed-starting times.


If you plan to start more than a packet or two of seeds, it helps to chart out a weekly seed-starting schedule, counting back from the date you plan to set out the transplants.


We call this a "sowing calendar." It helps you keep everything straight so that when you CAN plant outside, your seedlings will be ready!


Note: petunias, lobelia, marigolds, stock, snapdragons, ageratum, dusty Miller, coleus, etc. are a few of the most popular flowers that can be seeded indoors in March. Zinnias, asters and other warm weather flowers can be started indoors in early April.


VEGETABLES - Leaf crops like spinach, lettuce, chard, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, plus the others can be started indoors in late February and March. Cucumbers, squash, pumpkins plus the other warms weather vegetable can be started indoors in late March and April.


VEGETABLE ROOT CROPS - Sow the seeds of all root crops directly into the garden. Wait for the soil to warm up a little before seeding outdoors. Late March or early April is usually a good time for seeding root crops outdoors.


By Susan Darst Williams • • Start-Ups 11 © 2011





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