Late with seed starting this year? Or did you start a month or so ago? Are you a bit worried about how the cold will affect the success of your garden this year?
Worry all we want, we can’t do much about the weather. But there are a few things we can do to give our plants and gardens a great chance for success in spite of the weather.
#1. Use all the information you have in choosing when to start seed and set out seedlings.
- Remember that frost-free dates are just guidelines and an average of what’s taken place in past years. There’s no way they can tell you for sure about this year.
- Watch what’s going on in current weather forecasts. Check the Farmer’s Almanac as well. They’re pretty accurate about the various weather events, although they may not hit the precise day it’ll take place. (Go here and just select your zone from the drop down box.)
- And if you’ve gardened for a long time, go by the inner sense that long-time gardeners develop over time.
For example: I usually start warm weather crops like tomatoes etc. March 15th , but this year I’ve opted to start them the first of April. Probably I’ll be right on nature’s schedule.
If you have a set up to grow seedlings under lights inside, then you probably already have your plants growing. But if you don’t, you’ll still do just fine to start now. Remember, things grow when conditions are right. When they are right, you can hardly hold plants back.
- And just in case we have a late frost, be prepared in advance to protect your crops that might be set back by frost or freeze.
To Give You an Idea of What I’m Doing This Year:
I’m late with most things according to calendar time. But with what nature is indicating, I’ll bet I’m right on schedule.
I’ve already told you about starting my warm weather crops two weeks later. Here are some other things I’m doing differently:
- I usually start transplanting onions the last of February and into early March. This year, I just started last week! (And although I wish I had been able to get them in a couple of weeks prior to that, I think they’ll do just fine.)
- Planted peas March 10th. (Oddly, that’s earlier than when I usually plant peas.)
- I usually start lettuce in January or February. This year I started several varieties March 2nd. As soon as the seed was up, I put the jugs outside and the plants look great. I’ve already started to transplant to the garden.
- Same with Hakurei turnips, Russian Kale, bunching onions, and Pak Choy.
For even more detail you might want to review my posts:
Frost Free Date – Deciding When to Start Seed and When to Set Out Seedlings and
#2. Have backup ready in case you make the wrong call. (And we all do from time to time.)
If you start seedlings early, start them late as well. There’s always the possibility that some won’t make it no matter when you start them. All kinds of variables can cause that. Some are not easily noticed and you may never know exactly what it was that caused something to fail.
Succession planting of seeds as well as transplants can do a lot to ensure your having bumper crops.
#3. Diversity is important in every aspect of gardening.
Monoculture pretty much works against the principles of nature. So try to have different varieties of different crops. Every variety will bring a different characteristic to the garden even if it’s slight. It might be just enough of a difference to mean the success of a crop rather than its failure.
If you use every bit of information you have to help you make decisions, have backup ready in case of a wrong call, and use the principle of diversity, your garden should be just as much of a success this year as in any other.
Organic gardening is easy, effective, and efficient. And it’s a lot healthier.
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You answered my question about setting out early crop stuff, so I can start warm crops. Now I’ve started to double dig my beds. I moved the first shovel full to the side and placed a 2 to 4 inch layer of wood chips and then tilled them together. Then I placed 2 inches of soil back on. Then about 2 inches of green stuff and 4 inches of straw an the rest of the dirt and tilled that all together. My first question is do I need to add more N.? Then when do I need to double dig again? I plan on using cover crops and am trying to get in to no till gardening.
I have only read a little of your book at this time do to other things going on, but what I have read is really good and I guess if I had read your book I would not have to ask these questions.
This is a great post, Theresa. I tend to go two ways: either the recommended dates that I read for my area, or how I always planted / transplanted from previous years. I am amazed at how I can garden without actually paying attention to the garden or nature in general. Thanks to you, I am learning to actually observe how nature does things, for the first time ever. It’s not something that I find comes naturally to me. I think that some people are more in tune with their environment and can read the signals from it more than others. BUT, I think that everyone including myself can learn to become more observant and experience helps too.
Jack, I’m pleased to hear that you are preparing your soil deeply. I think you will be most pleased with the results.
And yes, you are correct, all your questions are answered in my book.
The section on soil preparation covers the part about never having to double dig but one time and what that answer is contingent on. (first mentioned on pages 82 and 83)
Your question about adding more Nitrogen is covered in many places throughout the book. In particular you will want to read pages 67, 98, 130 to 136, 173, and 178.
Let me know if you have more questions after reading those sections.
I think many if not most gardeners garden without paying attention to the garden or nature in general. So you are in good company.
For my first decade of gardening – even though I remember trying to work with nature – I didn’t really know what to look for other than the fact that nature covered the ground. Also, I was so wrapped up in just surviving from day to day that I didn’t give it a lot of thought.
Realization and “really knowing” is something that comes over time and with a conscious effort to be more aware. Also, hopefully reading things like this post, will point out things that you can do. When folks are ready to mentally receive information – then that aha moment usually takes place. And little by little we start to get it.
I’ve gardened 36 years this year and it was only in my 34th year that I had an Aha moment about the importance of roots to soil life and things of that nature. It’s not that I didn’t know certain things, it was just that I didn’t realize to what degree of importance these things were and how much help I could receive from the soil life if I just cooperated with them a little more.
It pleases me very much that I am helping you to observe. The more we observe and see how nature does it, the more we can relax and enjoy it even more.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. I have a feeling that many readers may feel the same way and will benefit by knowing how you feel.
I love your answers to questions. They are very comprehensive and helpful. I have a question or two. I have cold crop plants ready for transplant. My question is; which of the three broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cabbage can be transplanted and withstand a overnight low temperatures into the low 30’s and even high 20’s? Later on in the week the temps will be low 30’s however it is 75 today and high winds. I have found information about timing of planting but not exact temps. I am sure it varies some but I could use some advice only 2nd year gardening.
Steve, congratulations for being only in your 2nd year of gardening and already growing from seed!
That will put you soooo far ahead.
IF your seedlings are already hardened off and have been out at night in the cold (almost freezing temperatures) – broccoli and cabbage, should be able to withstand temperature from about 26 to 31 degrees pretty easily. It might burn the foliage a tad, but it won’t kill them.
Brussel Sprouts can take (and like) a light frost, but a hard freeze will kill them.
Thank you very much
I will harden them off and transplant in a few days.
You are so right on about hardening broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts I did as you suggested and voila worked fine. This morning had descent frost and broccoli did well. I have not planted cabbage or brussel sprouts outside yet they are being hardened off.
Thanks again for the excellent advice.
Thanks for letting me know how you did Steve.
I’m always pleased to help whenever I can.
I have to say, I’m a bit worried about this spring. After the intense winter we’ve had in the Midwest, it still feels like another shoe will fall at any time.
Is there a good list somewhere that anyone knows of as to which seeds can withstand light frost?
Tracey, most all seeds withstand frost. It’s the seedlings that may not be frost tolerant. (Maybe that was a typo?)
Lots of frost tolerant things – brocolli, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, peas, onions, beets, pak choi, kale, and others.
Don’t let the weather stop you from planting stuff. There’s always going to be variables. Just be in process of learning to deal with them. In this case — finding out what works in cooler weather like the ones I mentioned.