One big part of seed sowing success is good timing. When you sow the seeds can determine whether your plants fruit or flower later. I will show two main things to watch out for, so you can get it right.
This is part of a series, Indoor Seed Starting for Beginners | Sow Indoors Grow Outdoors, where I walk you through the process from seed to garden. It’s all the information I wish I had when I was getting started.
Using Days to Maturity for Perfect Timing
This is an excerpt from the ebook, Seed Starting for Beginners: Sow Inside Grow Outside, sharing everything you need to know to start your own garden plants from seeds indoors.
It’s all in the timing!
There are two things we need to time right.
1Total Growing Time
First, the big picture. You need enough indoor and outdoor growing time combined to allow the plant to mature, before fall frosts set in.
Find Your Frost Dates & Hardiness Zone
- Plant Hardiness Zones | United States | Canada
These are listed on seed packets and plant tags to guide your choices.
- Average Frost Dates | Use this calculator at Almanac.com. Enter your city and state or province to find your first and last frost dates and number of frost-free days.
If you are growing annuals (herbs, flowers, or vegetables that mature within a single growing season, and are not winter hardy), there is a finite number of days available.
- Check your seed packet for listed days to maturity.
- Check how many days you have between last frost in spring and first frost in fall. Is it enough? Is there elbow room for delays?
- If the seeds are started indoors, how many weeks before last frost should they be started? Check your seed packet for this info. Does that additional time give you a long enough growing period?
There are tomatoes that mature in just 50 days and others that take twice that.
Some watermelons take so long they have no chance of ripening as the days shorten and become cooler in late summer.
Decreasing light as we head into autumn also slows plant growth.
It’s all about choosing seeds with the right timing for your growing zone.
Days to Maturity
Also, some seed packets indicate days to maturity is from germination onward while others count from the day the seed is sown.
That can make a difference of a few weeks so read carefully to be sure you do have enough time.
If you are starting zone-appropriate perennials from seed, it’s not as urgent.
Perennials are plants that live on for several years. Delphiniums are my favorite example. You simply need well-established plants in the ground before the frosts set in. Like the other hardy plants in your garden, they’ll go dormant in the winter and resume growth in spring.
2Right Indoor Timing
We want to start seeds indoors at the recommended times indoors, so we don’t cause other problems. If we sow seeds indoors too soon in late winter or early spring, you can end up with a lot of maturing plants that you do not have room for.
As they grow, they need larger pots and take up more room under the grow lights, and that can be very challenging in a small space.
Better to grow things just in time, so they are strong enough to withstand the transition to life outdoors in late spring or early summer (depending on your growing zone), without taking over your house or demanding better growing conditions.
If we sow seeds indoors too late, we’re cutting into the total days to mature and may not get fruit or flowers before first fall frost. Boo!
You can view and download my seed starting plan here showing the start dates for a variety of plants.
Seed Starting for Beginners
Everything you need to get started with indoor seed starting for indoor and outdoor plants.
Grow what you want—any time of year!
This ebook is a digital file you download instantly.
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PDF Format | About Ebook
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛