When to Plant (& Succession Plant): Using Margaret Roach’s Planting Calculator
In Vermont we frequently use the term “cabin fever” at this time of year, since it seems like such a long time since it was warm enough to spend our days outdoors. It’s easy to feel stuck inside and disconnected from nature, particularly for farmers and gardeners who start to feel accustomed to life in daily contact with the summer soil. So it is with a wave of euphoria that I shake off the mentality of winter to write these words: it is almost time to plant again. In some parts of the country, planting has already begun in earnest, but here in Vermont we still have a short time left to order soil and flats, and organize our seeds and planting plans for the season ahead. When to Plant As the number of days left for anticipation gives way to the days slotted for gardening activities, it’s time to get out our calendars and start counting backward from that all-important last frost date. At least, that is the traditional method – take your last frost date, subtract the number of days to maturity, and voila! Many math equations later, your planting dates start to take shape. Since I am not particularly fond of math, however, I was very excited to come across this amazing tool for calculating planting dates: Margaret Roach’s Planting Calculator! All you have to do is plug in the last frost date in your area, and it gives you the planting date for every plant on your list. (For those of you who don’t know Margaret, it’s time to learn – she is a garden writer and radio show host, and her blog, A Way To Garden, is filled with great articles on how to grow just about everything.) Succession Planting Succession planting is probably the single most important tactic for producing a consistent supply of vegetables all season long. Basically it means that rather than sowing everything at once, you sow a little bit at a time. (If you’ve gardened before, you have probably experienced the zucchini explosion that occurs when you plant them all at once. No matter how much you love zucchini, you, and your neighbors, only want to eat them so many days in a row.) So how to ensure a reliable harvest that lasts longer than a few weeks? You can actually figure it out using Margaret’s planting calculator.
- For your first planting, plug in your last frost date.
- For your second planting, plug in a last frost date that is 1-2 weeks later than the first.
- For your third planting, plug in a last frost date that is 3 weeks to a month after the first date.
- Keep a notebook and jot down the dates each succession was sown, transplanted, and harvested, and make notes about how healthy the plants in that succession look at different stages.
- Mark the plants in your flats with the succession number written in pencil (not permanent marker – it will be gone within a week!) on a popsicle stick. For example, if it was the second planting, write a large 2 on the stick. Then transfer the stick to the ground when you transplant.