by Nicole Wines
It’s hard to believe with all the snow on the ground and another big winter storm headed towards Central Jersey this weekend and early next week, but spring is truly just around the corner. Now is the time to start planning (and planting!) your seedlings, if you haven’t already. There are certain plant varieties that you can start now, like onions, leeks and celeraic, as they have a long growing season and don’t mind the cool weather. Some can be planted in just a few weeks and almost all by the end of next month. So how do you know when is the best time for sowing which varieties? Today’s D.I.Y. Friday offers a simple how-to and links for tools to help you calculate the best time to start your seedlings.
Before you begin, remember that not all seeds should be started indoors, as some prefer direct sowing only. In general, root vegetables and tubers like carrots, turnips, potatoes and radishes should be direct sown. Sunflowers, cilantro and dill do not transplant well. Beans, peas, corn, beets and salad greens like lettuce, arugula and spinach are possible to start indoors, but seem to do better when directly sown. Cucumbers often do better when directly sown as well.
Once you know which seeds you will be starting indoors, the most important thing you need to know to calculate your planting dates is the first frost free date for your region. If you don’t know it, go to the following website and enter your zip code, it will give you the first and last frost free dates for the season:
Once you know your frost free dates, the simplest way to figure out the best time for you to start which seedlings is to use an online seed starting calculator tool. Click here for a list of various trustworthy seed starting calculators, just remember to enter that first frost free date in order to calculate correctly for your region:
If you have a plant variety not listed on any of the seed starting calculators, you’ll have to do a little research to find out the first date that plant can be set or transplanted outside, approximately how many weeks it needs to grow before being transplanted, and how many days on average it takes for that variety to germinate. Add up the germination and growing time and count backwards from your transplanting date to figure out when you need to plant by. Remember that it is not an exact science, just an estimation, and stay flexible to account for changing conditions. Give your seedlings lots of light, moisture, attention and love, and don’t forget to talk to them once in a while, and those sprouts will grow into healthy, strong, beautiful plants in no time!