Archived Monthly Posts

Frost Free Dates/Seed Starting

One of the questions gardeners always seem to have is when is the right time to start seeds.  This is mostly determined by their last frost free date in the spring or their first frost date in the fall.  It is important to know this as it determines when you should plant or start seeds of your favorite vegetables. Most seed packets will list the best time to either start seeds indoors or when to plant them out into the garden based on these dates (also see table below). Getting accurate frost free dates from the Internet is somewhat problematic. I did a quick search and found nearly as much inaccurate as accurate information. Here are two excellent sources of good frost free dates for the U.S. The simplest one to use is from the Victory Seed Company, found here: Frost Date Selector Page – Victory Seed Company  you first select your state, then your nearest city. This should work fine for most gardeners. There is also another good source from the National Climate Data Center (NOAA) for those who want a little more in-depth information. The individual state-by-state information can be viewed and downloaded from here:  Frost/Freeze Data for the U.S.

Using this source one can find the date and probability levels of the last 36, 32, and 28 degrees for a particular city based on climatological data from 1971-2000. To be very conservative, I would recommend that the 36 degree threshold be used (frost can still form at the surface even with temperatures above 32 degrees) along with the 50 % probability level. As an added margin of safety I would add 7 days to this date. As an example in Indiana at the “INDIANAPOLIS INTL AP” location the date of the last 36 degree day with a 50 % probability is April 29th. Adding 7 days to this gives you May 6th. In my experience, this date seems about right to me for in Central Indiana. To be extra safe, one can also use the 10% probability date without adding any days. For fall gardening I would use the first frost date (also using the 36 degree threshold with the 50% probability date), but I would not add any days to this date because most frost tolerant fall grown plants are almost fully mature by then and can withstand most frosts and light freezes.

Below is a chart that gives you the estimated amount of time that it will take to produce a transplant from seed. Take the date that is safe to transplant a specific species to your garden, subtract the number of weeks it takes to grow the transplant and then subtract the number of days it takes to germinate the seed to figure the date you should sow your seed.

Table Courtesy Harris Seeds:

Broccoli 6-10 4-5
Brussels Sprouts 6-10 4-5
Cabbage 6-10 5-6
Cauliflower 6-10 5-6
Collards 6-10 4-6
Cucumber 6-10 3-4
Eggplant 7-14 6-7
Endive/Escarole 5-10 5-7
Kale 6-10 4-6
Kohlrabi 5-10 4-6
Leek 7-12 6-8
Lettuce 6-10 4-5
Melons 5-10 2-3
Mustard 6-10 4-6
Okra 7-14 6-8
Onion 7-12 5-6
Pepper 10-20 6-8
Pumpkin 6-10 2-3
Squash (summer & winter) 6-10 2-3
Tomato 6-14 5-6
Watermelon 4-14 3-5

January Harvest of Carrots and 2015 Seed Ordering

I harvested the fall planted carrots on January 4th, just before the really cold weather set in (see pics below).  I had a decent harvest from this small 3 foot by 2 foot area.  The carrots were growing under a small plastic covered hoop house constructed with flexible polypipe.  The carrots are really sweet when you harvest them this time of the year.  I hope to complete most of my 2015 garden season seed orders by today.  I think it is a good idea to order early for best selection.  My cold frame will be set-up in the garden in about another 5 weeks, weather depending.  Spring will be here before you know it :-)

Carrots Awaiting Harvest on 1/4/15. Notice the Bent Polypipe that Forms the Hoop for the Plastic Covering

Carrots Awaiting Harvest on 1/4/15. Notice the Bent Polypipe that Forms the Hoop for the Plastic Covering

A Decent Harvest of Early January Carrots

A Decent Harvest of Early January Carrots

2014 Fall Garden Update

Sorry for the delay in posting this update. I have been having some technical issue with this blog which are now resolved. If you received a test entry in my blog feed yesterday please disregard that entry.  Overall, the fall garden did really well (see the many pics below). The first head of broccoli was harvested on October 4th and harvest began on the cabbage around this same time. The cauliflower was a little behind schedule, and the first heads were harvested around November 10th and harvest also began on the brussels sprouts around this same time.  The brussels sprouts did not produce as well as in past years and I am not sure why this was the case. I might have to give my brussels sprouts some extra fertilizer in late summer next year.  I was able to get a good harvest of late planted green beans from the corn plot around the third week of October.  I did have to cover this plot with a row cover to protect the beans from a few fall frosts.

I planted the top setting onions out in the garden a little later this year than I like. I think they were planted around the end of October. They seem fine now, but the weather turned cold in early November. They were covered with a row cover for the first few weeks to keep the squirrels from digging them up. The cover also helped to keep the ground from freezing so the roots could get established. After the row cover was removed, they were covered with a thin blanket of shredded tree leaves. These leaves help keep the ground from heaving during the late winter/early spring.

First Head of Broccoli Awaiting Harvest on 10/4/14

First Head of Broccoli Awaiting Harvest on 10/4/14

 Cauliflower is Growing Like Crazy, But No Sign of Cauliflower Heads Just Yet. Picture Taken 10/4/14

Cauliflower is Growing Like Crazy, But No Sign of Cauliflower Heads Just Yet. Picture Taken 10/4/14

Broccoli and Cabbage Growing Nicely in This 4'x4' Raised Bed. Picture Taken 10/4/14

Broccoli and Cabbage Growing Nicely in This 4’x4′ Raised Bed. Picture Taken 10/4/14

A Few Decent Sized Brussels Spouts From One of the Plants. Picture Taken 11/10/14

A Few Decent Sized Brussels Spouts From One of the Plants. Picture Taken 11/10/14

This is a Monster Sized Head of Cauliflower Awaiting Harvest on 11/10/14

This is a Monster Sized Head of Cauliflower Awaiting Harvest on 11/10/14

Corn and Tomato Harvest Going Great, Fall Seedlings Planted

Started harvesting the Silver Queen white corn about 2 weeks ago and the roma tomatoes  really started to come on over the last week or so.  I harvested about 30 pounds of roma tomatoes today and processed them  using a food strainer to make sauce to freeze.  The corn has been really good and harvest will finish up within the next few days.  After that, the corn stalks will be cut down and a late planting of bush green beans will go in this bed.  There is only about 60 more days until the first fall frost in my zone 5 garden.  The fall cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce seedlings have all been planted out into the garden.  Now we just need some rain as it has been pretty dry lately.  I also planted some Scarlet Nantes carrots seeds about 2 weeks ago, and most have germinated.  The King of the Garden pole lima beans are way behind this year.  The vines have just started to flower, so I am not sure if I will get any beans off of these before the first fall frost.  I am not sure what has caused this lack of production.  I guess it might be all of the cool weather we have been having.  Harvest also continues on the celery and peppers.  Another bed of bush green beans is just starting to flower, so it won’t be long before harvest begins on these.  I might get some radish seeds in the ground in another few weeks.  If you have not started your fall garden, do so now.  Fall is a great time to garden.

Onions Harvested - Still Waiting on Tomatoes and Corn

Onions were harvested last week and are now nearly dry enough to store.  The onion harvest was pretty good this year with many 2 to 3 inch sized bulbs.  A few yellow Candy onions approached 4 inches in diameter.  The Red Candy Apple onions did not get as big, which is normal, but they did grow pretty well for me as well (see pictures below).  Still waiting for the first ripe roma tomato and the first cob of Silver Queen white sweet corn.  The initial harvest was good on the cucumbers with still more on the vines.  Harvested many hot banana peppers over the last month or so, with many more coming on.  The spring planted broccoli is still producing amazing numbers of side shoots and I still have a few more heads of cabbage to harvest.  Harvest also continues on the spring planted celery.  Harvest finished up on the late spring planted bush green beans, but more should be ready in another 6 weeks or so.  The broccoli, cauliflower,  cabbage, and lettuce that I started in seedling trays around the first of July are starting to get some size to them.  I should be able to transplant all of them out into the garden in another 2 weeks or so.  My garden was getting really dry but I got some much needed rain a few days ago, Hoooray!!!  Fall is just around the corner, so plan (plant) accordingly :-)

Onions Drying on Fencing

Some of the Larger Candy and Red Candy Onions Harvested

Spring Harvest Update-Time for Fall Seed Starting

Wow, a lot has happened in the garden since my last blog update of a month ago.  Broccoli harvesting started on June 9th.  The heads were a little smaller than normal, but I still had a decent harvest overall with more side shoots still coming on.  The harvest on the Mr. Big peas started on June 20th with still a few more peas left to harvest.  The pea harvest this year was a little better than normal.  Lettuce is just about finished for the spring.  The spring lettuce harvest was pretty good this year, but I had a lot of trouble with slugs.  I still have a few small Buttercrunch lettuce plants still growing.  The onions tops on the Red Candy Apple and Candy are starting to fall over, so harvest and curing will be taking place in another 3 weeks or so.  The Golden Acre cabbage plants are still growing, but most of the heads look like they will be somewhat small this year.  The Red Norland potato vines have mostly turned brown and harvest might begin on some of these in a few days.  The bulk will be left unharvested for a few more weeks to dry out a bit before digging and storage.  The hot banana peppers continue to produce some peppers with many more to come.  The Diva cucumbers are growing like mad and with many inch long cucumbers observed growing along the vines.  The Derby bush green beans have very small green beans on some of the plants, so it won’t be long until harvest begins on those.  The King of the Garden pole limas are really starting to get growing and all vines have made it up the top of the trellises.  The Roma tomatoes have all just about reached the top of the cages, with many small immature tomatoes observed on the plants.  The Tango celery plants are big enough to start harvesting the outer stalks.  Harvest will start on those today, YUM.  The white Silver Queen corn is starting to tassel and it looks like it will be a good corn crop this year.  The weather has been pretty good with just the right amount of rain.  I hope the good weather continues throughout the rest of the growing season (knock on wood).

I will be starting seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and lettuce in a few more days for transplanting out into the garden during the first week of August.  Wow, it is hard to believe that fall planting is starting up now.    Go on over to my Facebook page to see more pictures of my garden which were taken today.  Happy Summer Vegetable Growing!!!

Candy and Red Candy Apple Onions Growing Nicely

Tomatoes, Peppers, and Cucumbers Growing Very Well

Garden 100% Planted

My Garden is now fully 100% planted.  Corn was planted on May 3, 9 celery plants on or about May 4, six Roma tomato plants were planted on May 4, peppers on May 5, and King of the Garden lima beans on May 6, 8 cucumber seedlings on or about May 10 along with bush green bean seeds.  The garden experienced some patchy frost on the morning of the 18th of May.  Luckily, no plants were damaged by this late frost.  The weather has been cooler than normal and fairly wet.  Two inches of rain fell within about 2 hours on May 21st, along with some pea sized hail.  A few of the lettuce leaves sustained some minor holes, but nothing too severe.  The forecast is for drier and warmer weather for about the next week.  The cool season plants like lettuce, radish, onions, cabbage, broccoli, etc. are really growing well.  With all of this rain, slugs are becoming a problem on the lettuce. About the only thing you can do is hand pick them off of the plant.  I hand picked a few cabbage worms off of the brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage plants.  If the worms get any worse, I will have to spray them with Spinosad. A few of the broccoli plants have very small heads forming already.  Harvest continues on the lettuce, green onions, and radish.  The Red Norland potato vines are growing like made and a few of the vines will probably start blooming within the week.  Check out my Facebook page for updated photos of my garden.  May is my favorite gardening month.  Happy Planting!!

Garden Half Planted, Spring Garden Growing Nicely

My garden is now half planted, with the only things left to plant, when the weather warms a bit more, are celery, peppers, tomatoes, corn, beans, and cucumbers.  Red Norland potatoes were planted on 4/12, about half of the lettuce seedlings were transplanted out into the garden (under the hoop) on 4/13, broccoli and cabbage seedlings went into the garden on 4/19, and brussels sprouts seedlings went out a few days ago.  Just starting to harvest a few leaves from the overwintered lettuce, but it is growing slower than normal this year.  The early seeded radishes are also slow growing. Started harvesting some green onions from the fall planted top-setting onions about 4 days ago, with many more harvests to come.   See a few pics of the garden taken 4/27 below.  Check out even more pics on my Facebook Page.  Happy Spring Planting :-)

Spring Planted Lettuce Growing Nicely Under Hoop

Garden Peas Starting to Get Bigger

Broccoli and Cabbage Seedlings Adjusting to Their New Home

Onions, Peas, and Radish Planted - Rain Galore

Radish and pea seeds were sown about one week ago. Received my onion plants from Dixondale about 5 days ago and then it proceeded to rain heavily for 2 days. The garden soil is still very wet, but I went ahead and planted out the onion plants today in the mud (see picture below), taking care not to disturb the soil too much. I planted about 170 onion plants (about 1/3rd were Red Candy Apple and 2/3rd were Candy). The weather has been anything but normal around here. Because of the colder than normal late winter and early spring, I am at least two weeks behind a normal spring planting schedule. Because of the cold temperatures I delayed starting some of my seeds for fear of losing them in the cold frame. Hopefully the worst of the cold is behind me. I will not be able to transplant any of my lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage seedlings for at least another 2 weeks. Oh well, every year there is always a different challenge when it comes to the weather. Here’s hoping for drier and warmer weather!!

Candy and Red Cany Onion Seedlings Planted on 4-6-14

Seedlings Growing Inside Cold Frame, 4-6-14

Overwintered Lettuce, More Seeds Started, Compost Moved

The overwintered lettuce seems to be greening up a bit under the hoop. I checked out the plants thoroughly for the first time a few days ago. They seem to be doing fine (see picture below). Hopefully these lettuce plants will start growing bigger leaves within the next month. I planted radish seeds and some onion top sets around these lettuce plants 2 days ago. With any luck I should be harvesting fresh radishes in another month or so. I will be starting my green pepper seeds today along with a few more lettuce seeds. I emptied both of my compost bins yesterday and spread it onto the garden beds. Some of the compost in the bigger bin was still frozen, but I was able to chop most of it up with a shovel. The last big frozen clump of compost I lifted into the wheelbarrow and rolled it into one of the unoccupied garden beds to thaw. Wow, shoveling and moving compost is a big job!! The garden beds were even dry enough for me to get out my Mantis tiller and work them over a bit. The weather was been colder than normal, but at least the snow has melted and my soil has finally unthawed and dried out. My onion starts should be arriving from Dixondale in another week. I am hopeful to be able to direct plant my peas out into the garden in another 2 weeks. Happy Spring Gardening!!

Overwintered Lettuce Greening Up, 3-21-14