Sunday, January 18, 2015

Garden Planting Chart

 This is last year's planting chart.  Coffee stained because it was always sitting on the table by the sofa... constantly referenced and mulled over.(and spilled upon evidently)

It is not fancy, or professional, or even digital, in a nice spreadsheet.  Just a hand drawn chart that served its purpose, telling me when to start certain seedlings, and where -whether indoors, outdoors in a cold frame, or directly seeded into the garden.  

The line down the center of the paper represents the average last day of frost, usually around May 31 here.  Some plants that are very cold tolerant can be planted, even outdoors, well before that last frost date.  So a gardener has to become familiar with the growth requirements of every seed he or she wishes to plant.
And given the short growing season here in the northeast, the gardener will want to start some seeds indoors or in a protected environment to get a bit of a headstart, so when weather conditions do allow planting outside, you will be a bit ahed of the game.
So here is how I made this simple chart. Beginning at that centerline marked "0", I counted back two weeks at a time, until I reached 12 weeks before our frost free date, say March 1 here.  Same thing going forward-2 weeks at a time until I reached the first fall  frost date, September 15.  
Then I made a list of what I was going to plant, from broccoli to zucchini...
Then it gets a little more complicated.  Not everything can be planted directly in the garden, at least not if you want them to have time to produce in this short season.  So, some things will be started indoors, in the warmest environment. Some can be started in  the cold frames, if they are a little more hardy.  So i made a a key for my chart.
"I" means "indoors"-these seeds are started indoors
"C" means "cold frame" -these are started in the cold frame
"D" means "direct "-directly planted in the garden
"T"is "transplant"-this is the date when those seeds started indoors or in the cold frame can tansplanted into the garden, though I have one more category for hoop house, "H", as some really warmth loving plants, like tomatoes and peppers, will do better if given the protection of  the row cover until its really hot outside.

Then, after studying the requirements of each type of seed, i simply plugged in the code, I,C,D, or T on the appropriate date.
So, for example, on the very first row of the chart, carrots and spinach seeds get planted in the cold frame on March 1, while celery, onions, and peppers, get seeded inside, on my little shelves by the window.
some crops get planted more than once, so you can have a succession of harvests all year. Taking carrots again as an example, they can begin to be planted directly in the garden beginning May 1, and then every three weeks until July 15.
Celery is started indoors, then transplanted to the garden May 1.

You could make your own version of this chart. You need to determine the first and last frost dates for your region, which is easy to do by looking up "growing zones" on any search engine. Indeed, if you are planning a garden, you will need to know this information, whether you write it all down or not.  If you are simply buying the starter plants from the nursery, then for sure some of the early seedling starts are done for you. You will still need to know when it is safe to plant those tomato plants outside. A few books I have found particularly helpful are Elliot Coleman's Four Season Harvest, and Nicki Jabbour's  Year Round Vegetable Gardener.  

Elliot is a master at growing food year round in unheated greenhouses, so if you dont want to, or cant, heat a greenhouse, some of the methods he employs might work well for you.

Nicki relies more heavily on grow lights indoors, but has some really helpful information about each individual species, and its growing requirements. 

Looking outside right now, it seems like it will be a long, long time before garden season, but, as you can see from that chart, it will be here before you know it.
Now is the time to drool over seed catalogues, nursery websites, order those seeds, and dream of lush productive beds overflowing with goodness...

Weather today. Wow, from minus 4 yesterday to 29 this morning, to a high of 42, with freezing rain, then rain.... 
Wildlife... turkeys, moles, the feeder birds.. all the regulars..
training. Well, it just didnt happen today. What can I say?

Thought for the day. 
Ecclesiastes 3:1
For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.(and you thought that was just a song by the Byrds). 

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