Creating the Ideal Planting Schedule
With spring in the air, many farmers are now planting seed in order to achieve maximum growth, and some are already anticipating their first harvest of the season. Many commercial producers have their planting schedule down to an exact science, but if you’re a small-scale, hobby grower you may have never considered using a planting schedule. However, making one could be the key to your highest yield yet. In this blog we will discuss some of the steps to follow and the information required for you to create an ideal planting schedule.
The first and most important step is to map out every week that you will be involved with your crops; we can refer to this as your growing period. This time frame should include details such as when to sow or start seeds indoors, first and last frost dates, and when produce will be ready to harvest. If you have never noticed the timing of the last spring frost or first fall frost, you will want to do some research when you begin creating your planting schedule. If you need to find out the frost dates for your location, you can do so by searching online. You can start by finding the Hardiness Zone of your location by searching your zip code at www.plantmaps.com. Once you’ve found what zone you are located in, you can then search the web for the frost dates of your specific zone. Mark down the last frost date of the spring and first frost date of the fall on your schedule. Here at our headquarters in South Windsor, CT, we are located in zone 5b, so we have built an example planting schedule accordingly.
After having mapped out your total growing period, you’ve moved on to the fun part: choosing your crops. Plan out what you will be growing and write every crop down on your schedule. At this point, you have created the foundation of your planting schedule. From here you can begin to plan when you will start your crops, where they will be started (in or outdoors), and when you should plant them in order to have an ideal harvesting period.
Next you need to do some research on your crops. You can do this by either looking up the growing information online, or by reading the back panel of your seed pouch. You will specifically be looking for the number of days to maturity and the ideal growing climate, which will be noted on the back label of your seed packet. After determining which of your plants are frost-tolerant and which are not, determine whether you will be starting them indoors or out, and then begin to select the dates of when you will be starting each of your crops. For example, working with a plant that has a high frost tolerance, such as broccoli, means that you will be able to plant it outdoors a few weeks prior to the final spring frost and begin your harvest in mid-spring. Alternately, working with a frost-sensitive crop, like peppers, means that you will need to start the seeds indoors if you are looking to have your first harvest somewhere in the early summer to late spring. Working off a planting schedule allows for much of the guess work to be removed from your growing. Planning an accurate schedule and following it will ensure that you have crops ready to harvest at all times, rather than experiencing the occasional dry spell, which occurs when some crops have already been harvested while others are not ready yet. After you’ve done your research and planned your schedule, plant your seeds accordingly and watch your garden begin to flourish.
Once the last frost has passed and all your crops are planted outdoors, regular care, such as transplanting, weeding, watering, controlling pests, pruning, fertilizing or thinning, is what your plants will require. You will of course need to watch your crops and determine any adjustments that must be made during your scheduled growing season, such as providing support for plants, like tomatoes, as they start to produce. While creating a planting schedule does not guarantee that your garden will not undergo any major setbacks (drought, heavy rains, pests etc), it will provide greater confidence in your growing and help you to see better yields and consistency.
Developing a planting schedule is easy, but certainly is not an overnight task. It takes great planning and understanding of the climate in your region, as well as knowing the seed to harvest cycle of the plants you are looking to grow. With an in-depth knowledge and understanding of your climate and crops, planning and producing your best crops can be as easy as gathering information from your environment, marking it down and planning accordingly.