Do you feel the need to seed?

Farm Forum

Gardeners are usually thought of as a rather patient group. We plant little seeds or small trees and shrubs and then have to wait for weeks, months or even years to get the benefit of a harvest, flowers or shade. But, that is not usually the case when it comes to spring planting, especially after a long winter like the one we just had, which I hope is now finally over.

Hopefully by now, most of you have ordered your vegetable seeds or at least have a good idea of what you would like to order or purchase at your local garden center, hardware or discount outlet store. If you plan to order your seed online or from a catalog, I would suggest you do it soon or some of the varieties you were hoping to get might be out of stock. Once you have your seed, separate it out into three groups. The first group should be any vegetables that you want to start early by planting them indoors. Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and onions are the most common ones that should be, or really should have been started early to be later planted in the garden as transplants.

The next group includes vegetables that are pretty cold tolerant and can even take a light frost and can germinate in pretty cool soils, even down to 45F. Lettuce, peas, radishes, beets and carrots fall into this group. Sweet corn can be in this group too but many of the new hybrid types won’t germinate very well if the soil is too cold and wet. Check the variety information in the catalog or website for tips on which ones can tolerate cool soils.

The last group includes the vegetables that cannot tolerate a frost and need fairly warm soil temperatures, usually about 65 to 70F, in order to germinate and grow. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, cucumbers, melons, squash and pumpkins fall into this group. The cucurbits, like the pumpkins, squash and especially watermelon, really prefer to be planted into soil temperatures that are closer to 75F so some people will also start many of these in peat pots or peat pellets so that they can get a little jump on germination and early growth indoors before they plant them out in the garden.

Keep in mind that these plants do not like to be root-bound so don’t start too early and then don’t leave them in the peat pots too long before planting. The other aspect to keep in mind is when the last frost date is typically for your area.

Here in Brookings it is usually around May 20 to 25 but it can vary quite a bit from one year to the next. These dates are just a guide so you might want to keep some old bed sheets or other material around to cover your young plants if colder weather is predicted. Check out your state’s climate data to see what the typical last frost date is for your garden. Some gardeners are beginning to use high tunnels to help warm up the soil and provide frost protection so that planting can be done much earlier than in unprotected sites. Floating row covers and other devices can also be helpful in avoiding frost damage.