When Can I Start Vegetables for My Garden?



As you can see in the bottom right hand corner of the photo this was of my greenhouse operation that I called Potter’s Dream Greenhouses in May of 2006. By this time 11 years ago, meaning May 9th, I had seeded a few thousand vegetables, including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, melons and more. You learn very quickly if you want to succeed in the greenhouse business you have to provide the right plant in the desired state of development in the proper time frame.



If you are seeding vegetables for your own enjoyment your schedule can be a little more loose. I have seeded tomatoes in the end of February or maybe a couple of weeks later during my greenhouse career, because I wanted bigger plants by the time the early birds came looking in mid-April when 70 degree days were the norm in the mountains of Virginia. Of course that did not mean we would not get frost up and through mid-May. In fact, during my first growing season in 2002 a late frost actually benefitted me as most of the known growers were sold out of plants following a third week of May freeze killed a lot of previously purchased plants.

This year we waited until the third week of March to seed our tomatoes. Part of this was just not getting to the task due to some other projects, such as cleaning out the greenhouse for the first time in way to long. So you can see the fruits of our efforts I will share some pics.




We decided to plant our tomatoes differently this year. Rather than seed then transplant into single cell trays we are just going to grow them all in one mass plant and separate to bigger containers when the time is right. Here you can see the trays we utilized in planting.


Yes, that is a tree branch in the middle of the left tray, which is actually separating the types of seeds. We chose three varieties originally, Roma, Beefsteak and an heirloom variety called Red-X. Since then I rounded up three more, Better Boy, Celebrity and a Yellow & Red Stripe shared with my father by a friend. I tried something different with these three varieties, adding about a dozen seeds to the bottom of a disposable plastic cup and then adding an ounce or two of water to see if I could accelerate the sprouting process. I will let you know if this works.

We also seeded cucumbers and zucchini on the same day. Tell me what you think about my high tech labeling system.


The main thing to consider when trying to nail down the date for starting vegetables is to know a few of things:

  1. What is the average germination time of my seeds?
  2. Can I provide a sheltered environment so they have the best germinating situation?
  3. Once germinated how long until I can transplant?
  4. How long from transplant until I can plant outside (i.e. when is the frost/freeze danger over)?

Seeding your own plants can be fun as well as rewarding, you just have to understand all the components to successful seeding. Good luck as you take on this task!



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