Ask a Question forum: Sowing Seeds

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Name: Chenoa Frazer
Jacksonville Florida (Zone 8b)
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chenoa0125
Jul 16, 2015 2:47 PM CST
I have a couple of questions that i hope does not confuse everyone in a 3 mile radius. I live in Zone 8 in Florida and went to the ATP calendar on seed sowing for fall. Well it said for June 30-Aug 14 to sow seeds indoors on some things. So Saturday I started Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts and a few tomato varieties. Well come Monday most of everything has already germinated and sprouted up in my seeds starting trays. (was NOT expecting that to say the least) Well now I am wondering if I did not start them too early. Do I take the top off since some germinated? What about the ones that did not? Shouldn't the cool weather stuff go out later in the year? How long should you keep seedlings in those trays? How long should seedlings be left in those pods before you put them out anyway? I am wondering why the calendars show so many varying dates from one site to the next. I am a newbie at all of this and I think I may have jumped the gun not knowing. but then I looked back yesterday and saw it saying in the notes it says better to start indoors around July 27 so I am not that far off. I have googled everywhere to answer these questions but everything is so cut and dry about things and not specific. If anyone has any advise for a newcomer to gardening please help me! This is all so confusing to me when I guess maybe it is not to people who have been doing it.

Thanks

Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Jul 16, 2015 5:14 PM CST
Sympathy! I'll try to give a more direct answer in the next post, but this one may help ease the pain of "tables can only go so far" in producing firm answers. The number of variables in a garden is so large that local experience is better than "one size fits all" formulae.

Asking a neighbor or a Master Gardner or the local Ag Extension office would give you answers based on local experience. "Local" counts for a lot.

"Zone 8" can describe totally different climates.

"Average first frost date" says nothing about whether your fall is short and unsettled, long and cool, long and hot, dry, wet, loaded with insects ... etc.

But whether you start with the ATP sowing calendar, or research a dozen like it and average out the answers, you will still only get a first guess your first year.


I just read an post by Joseph in Cubits that he saved a LOAD of Bok Choy seed, and now he's going to start a few rows of Bok Choy every two weeks between now and whenever. That's one way to find the best date!

You can be EXTRA proud of any ripe crops you get your first year!

The ones planted too late, you might still be able to eat baby leaves if they are greens.

Or throw a low hoop tunnel over them and keep 'em alive into cold weather. At your latitude, daylength might not be a terrible factor, and they might still ripen at a time of year when normal farmers would look at you like a lunatic.

The ones planted too early will teach you what heat tolerance the varieties that you planted actually have in YOUR garden. You could shade them or mist them if you're stubborn enough to argue with the climate.

If you keep notes , your second year's guesses will be greatly improved. By the third year, you'll KNOW when ... except that you'll still be better off planting some 2-4 weeks early and some 2-4 weeks late, if you have enough room and enough seed.

Climate is what we expect, but weather is what we get.


Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Jul 16, 2015 5:14 PM CST
I agree it is hard to deduce practical things about gardening from books and websites. There are so many variables that they really CAN'T all be gathered into one or a few tables and "just looked up".

But we all want that and most websites realize that everyone wants a simple, clear answer to every question, even if the accurate answer would be "it depends on these six things that are hard to quantify".

Most such "sowing time tables" look at:
- the average first frost date for your location
- how many days to maturity each crop advertises
- how many days germination and grow big enough to TX out
- subtract DTM from AFFD and get a time to direct sow or TX out
- subtract (DTM plus GermnTime) from AFFD and get a time to start indoors.

If course, each of the first three rows is plus or minus several weeks, for year-to-year variation, variety-to-variety variation, climate variation within a Hardiness Zone, micro-climate variation, different styles off indoor seed germination ... I think if we dialed in a plus-minus range large enough to give 80% confidence in each source number, we would wind up with conclusions like : "the best time to start those seeds is some where between 3 weeks ago and two months from now".

Trial and error is guaranteed to work eventually, IF you keep better notes than I do!

You'll learn that
- warm weather crops need FEWER DTM in FL than the seed packet assumed
(or not - I never grew anything in FL!)

- Cool weather crops need to be started at the very LATEST edge of possible dates to beat the heat. (Or not, if you have a long cool fall.)

- If this is your first year staring seeds indoors, you might have been surprised to find that they did poorly for you and took 2-3 times as long as predicted to become big enough to plant out ... but you learned the opposite. Whatever you did, the seeds loved it and jumped right up out of the soil for you.
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Jul 16, 2015 5:55 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

Good advice above from Rick.

I'll only add that I'm also in zone 8b and my climate is probably pretty close to yours. This past weekend we started all our fall crops (broccoli, spinach, lettuce, etc) and they all germinated the very next day. We now have full trays of little seedlings. In 6 to 8 weeks they'll be ready for the ground, having gotten a good start. By that time we'll be getting into the time of year when things start to get cooler, perfect for transplanting to their final destination.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Jul 16, 2015 8:17 PM CST
Chenoa, I have a book written by an extension agent from Orlando that has more specific planting dates for just about every type of veggie you want to grow in Florida.

"The Edible Landscape" by Tom McCubbin is available on Amazon, along with its sequel "Florida Home Grown" I can't tell you how many times I've fallen asleep over these books.

http://www.amazon.com/Florida-Home-Grown-Edible-Landscape/dp...

I do think that although you are in the same zone as Dave, we stay warmer until later in the fall because of closer proximity to the ocean and gulf, so I don't plant my cool season things like broccoli, lettuce, and spinach until at least Labor Day. (but I am further south than you) Our first "cold" front usually comes through here around mid-October.

That being said, gardening is dictated in the end by the weather, which as we well know is very hard to predict, and impossible long term. It's not a big deal if you were to plant some more seedlings later if these first ones prove to be too hard to "hold" until the weather cooperates for you. You can keep the cool season veggies going all the way through the winter, and I even kept my tomatoes and peppers producing last year with a little covering and coddling.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
[Last edited by dyzzypyxxy - Jul 17, 2015 10:16 AM (+)]
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Name: Chenoa Frazer
Jacksonville Florida (Zone 8b)
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chenoa0125
Jul 17, 2015 9:31 AM CST
@rickcorey thank you for your response to the dilemma I thought I was in. I have heard good things about you on the podcasts. so it does not look like it is as bad as I thought. I do take notes on every little thing so I guess I will just have to pay more attention to the weather than I ever have before now that I am wanting to get in to the gardening scene. Well I listen to every podcast from @Dave & Trish and followed their regime to the T, so many thanks to them for the fast germination. So for now I will keep notes and try that formula from now on and stay on the furthest end, Cause I know here in Florida we wear shorts for Christmas sometimes Big Grin

Thanks Again Thank You!

[Last edited by chenoa0125 - Jul 17, 2015 9:36 AM (+)]
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Name: Chenoa Frazer
Jacksonville Florida (Zone 8b)
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chenoa0125
Jul 17, 2015 9:38 AM CST
@dave I was pleased to see you responding to my question as I follow everything you and Trish do to the T. I love you guys. I am glad to see you also started the same seeds as me last weekend. But 2 questions I do have is this. Now that some of the 72 pot seedlings have germinated do I keep them ALL in the tray, do I move out the small little plants, if so what do I do with them? Exactly how long can seedlings stay in those seed trays? I have some I used the pellets and some I made the seed mixture like you guys do. The seeds have sprouted and are quiet tall but they do not seem to be anywhere near ready to go out. How do you know when they can go out? I planted milkweeds a few weeks ago and the roots on those got quite out of hand even tho the actual stems and leaves were small, so I put them into bigger pots. I am not quite sure exactly time frames on that part and what I should do as far as where to keep them or just leave them.

Again Many thanks for all the great advise you guys give and keep the podcasts coming

Thank You!
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Jul 17, 2015 12:32 PM CST
chenoa0125 said: ... I have heard good things about you on the podcasts. so it does not look like it is as bad as I thought.


Gee, I better find time to listen to those podcasts! The only time I remember hearing my name, I almost fell out of my chair laughing. Dave thanked me for finding an irrigation timer online, then mentioned dryly "of course it took him THREE PAGES of text to mention the links ...". As Sheldon of Big Bang Theory tells us: "It's funny because it's true."

chenoa0125 said: ... I do take notes on every little thing

You'll be teaching the Master Gardeners very soon. You might want to invest some time asking neighbors what THEY do anyway, so that after you figure it out for yourself, they'll be more willing to listen to your opinions. I think everyone loves giving their opinion.

chenoa0125 said: ... I guess I will just have to pay more attention to the weather than I ever have before now that I am wanting to get in to the gardening scene.


Yes and no! What we really need as gardeners is to follow the FUTURE weather very closely. "When we set out transplants" depends on actual future weather, not "climate" or past averages. It keeps things interesting.

chenoa0125 said: ... Well I listen to every podcast from @Dave & Trish and followed their regime to the T, so many thanks to them for the fast germination.


That explains it! I was pretty jealous that your FIRST TRY at starting seeds indoors worked much better than my 1st through 5th attempts. Finding good advice and then following it - what a good idea!
[Last edited by RickCorey - Jul 17, 2015 3:23 PM (+)]
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Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Jul 17, 2015 1:12 PM CST
You had some really hard questions, or at least ones that I have no good answer for.

Since you keep good notes, PLEASE keep posting what you figure out through trial and error, or write up tips and articles!

I think that the people who know best how to do these things tend not to have lots of words for how they do it. They "just know how" and have some system they follow, whether or not they even have a conscious list of rules they follow.

>> Now that some of the 72 pot seedlings have germinated do I keep them ALL in the tray, do I move out the small little plants, if so what do I do with them?

1. Once any seedlings in a tray emerge, remove the humidity dome from all of them and give them some drier air, and air movement if possible. Otherwise you'll become familiar with damping off.

In the future, you might plant similar seed sin the same tray, or cut the insert tray into 3, 4 or 5 "chunks". Sow each"chunk" with just one kind of seed, so they all germinate as close together as possible. Cover with plastic film or plastic bags, so you can unveil each "chunk" right after germination. Or you can remove the germinated "chunks" of trays from the humidity bags, and leave UN-emerged chunks under the plastic.

The plastic just serves to keep the soil surface moist without constant spraying. It maybe holds in a little warmth also. Extra humidity and warmth are good for germination, but SEEDLINGS like it drier and cooler.

I tend to cover with 18" wide Saran Wrap, since I have a roll. I cut mini-blind-slats in half or thirds the long way so I have skinny little stiff uprights to hold the plastic off the soil surface.


>> Exactly how long can seedlings stay in those seed trays?

Good question.

Whatever light, soil, air and temperatures you keep, those plus the plant species and variety determine how fast your seeds will become root-bound. If you know how long it took last year, you know about how long it will take next year. After 3 years, you'll have a good idea of the "plus or minus" ranges.


>> ... the roots on those got quite out of hand ... so I put them into bigger pots.

That's the answer: until just before they become too root-bound. If roots start coming out the bottoms of the cells, you are getting close. You probably have to pop some out to see HOW rootbound they are.

What do others think about when to pot seedlings up? I LIKE to pot up seedlings when they are really rootbound, with lots of white roots showing or even circling. The rootball is so solid that I could almost drive nails with it (exaggeration). There is NO WAY you can break any roots in a rootball like that! In fact, I can transplant these into the ground without bending over: make a trench and then drop the rootbound seedlings from 3-4 feet up. If I hit a rock, they might just bounce.

However, what I LIKE is bad for the seedlings. The roots can just barely recover from having been so rootbound that they circle the cell. Seedling growth went on "hold" as the roots approached 100% root-bound-ness.

At the other extreme is potting up almost as soon as any root tip touches the cell wall. The seedling never has any rootbound tress and the growth rate never checks. However, now it requires COORDINATION to transplant the roots without the root ball falling apart or breaking up. I GUESS it is OK to transplant roots that sprawl around sparsely and let the soil mix fall out.

My guess (still learning) is that the seedlings would like a chance to get their roots into MOST of the soil mix in the cell, but not sit there so long they have a death grip on every grain and fiber of the mix. Perhaps "some white roots showing at the surface of the root ball, but not very much circling".

"Some roots showing but not much circling" will hold the root ball together ENOUGH for tidy transplanting if you are AT ALL coordinated.

Of course, all this is "no answer", since "how long" totally depends on:
- how big the cells are (72 cells per tray? 50? 128? 36?),
- what growth conditions (e.g. soil aeration, light intensity and temperature)
- plant species and variety ("vigor")

You might prepare to pot up 10-20 seedlings as soon as some seedlings have 2-3 pairs of true leaves. Then pick the BIGGEST seedling from each variety. Try to re-pot that "early" seedling.

If it is not yet at all root-bound when you try to re-pot it, skip the rest of that variety for another 3-4 days. If the biggest seedling from one variety iIS root-bound enough to pot up, also re-pot any of that variety that are almost as big.

And record how many days it was from sowing to root-bound!
And what temperatures and soil mix and cell size you used.

>> How do you know when they can go out?

I have almost no idea, but where's what I go by:

For warmth-loving seedlings, outdoor soil temp matters.

They have to be big enough to survive the level of insects and slugs you have.
One bite will kill a tiny seedling, but be shrugged off by something with 20 leaves.

You probably need to harden them off anyway. If they wilt a lot their first day outside in shade, bring them back inside and try again a week or more later.

>> I am not quite sure exactly time frames on that part

That's where your notes will serve you well. You can't totally PREDICT since weather and growth rates vary every day. But past experience will suggest the date ranges, and then you can try to predict the weather, and choose whether you want to be optimistic and ambitious and early this year, or cautious.

If you start twice as many seeds as you need, you can put some out early and some out late. Fill the yard and hoe up the ones that are less than ideal, and replace those with other plants. Give lots of seedlings away, especially if you KNOW they will get planted, and some produce or seeds or favors might come back to you.

Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Jul 17, 2015 3:17 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

Chenoa, thanks for listening to the podcasts and for your kind words. They encourage us to keep recording! We'll be at episode #100 soon which is hard to believe.

Rick's (lengthy! Hilarious! ) answers above are excellent and I can't add anything to them. As always he is full of information and generous with his sharing.
Name: Chenoa Frazer
Jacksonville Florida (Zone 8b)
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chenoa0125
Jul 17, 2015 3:23 PM CST
@dave I have every podcast on iTunes, I've listened to every one and have started back over. I pick up new things every time. Keep up good work
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Jul 17, 2015 3:24 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

If I may go slightly offtopic here: do you ever have any trouble listening on itunes? I ask because I've heard 2 different people tell me that sometimes the podcast stops half way through but only when using itunes.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Jul 17, 2015 3:43 PM CST
dave said:... I can't add anything to them. ...


*Blush* Thank You!

I was hoping that after I described the vast extent of my ignorance, that others would jump in and supply the missing answers. I did NOT want to hear that everyone is in the same boat and "ya just gotta keep trying" is the best answer.

I assume that everyone who has gardened on a large scale for more than a few years has rules of thumb for their region and their methods and goals: "I start THESE in mid-March and THOSE in early May", or "6 weeks in a 72-cell except vigorous veggies only last 3 weeks, so I start them in 50-cells". Especially: "these are worth starting 4 small batches, every 2-3 weeks from A to B".

Mostly what I know is what NOT to do. I am proud of my expertise in ways to kill seedlings. I think it was over on DG where someone listened to a rant, then went and did the opposite of everything I had done for my first few years, and had good success.

- don't drown the mix through overwatering. They rot & the roots rot.

- don't drown the roots with water-retaining peaty-mix. Seeds rot, roots rot, and the seedlings die from damping off.

- don't try to start tiny seeds that are "sow on surface, need light to germinate" on top of coarse, fast-draining potting mix. They fall into dark cracks and die there. Sprinkle enough fine mix or vermiculite on the surface to support the tiny seeds.

- don't start more seeds than you can hold under lights until ready to harden off.

- don't leave them in their germination cells too long. They get rootbound BRIEFLY and then go into shock or die.

- don't bottom water a tray of cells in a bathtub unless you know what you are doing. Or schedule the plumber to unclog your pipes before you start the bottom-watering comedy routine. Or make a YouTube video of the process - I wish I had!

- if you sow only 1-2 seeds per cell, germination will be low and you'll have empty cells or have to back-fill them from other seedlings.

- if you sow many seeds per cell, germination will be high and you will have to kill most of them.

- if you harden off Delphinium seedlings, slugs will eat them right down to the soil surface. Let them grow larger indoors, then harden them off surrounded by a moat, copper flashing, electrified foil, mine fields, belts of slug bait and machine-gun towers. Then one out of five seedlings may survive.







Name: Chenoa Frazer
Jacksonville Florida (Zone 8b)
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chenoa0125
Jul 17, 2015 3:47 PM CST
@dave I never have any issues with their or any podcast on iTunes I subscribe to the feed so every time there's a new one it automatically downloads. I can keep them on my phone if I want or delete them but I never have any issues with them
[Last edited by chenoa0125 - Jul 17, 2015 9:21 PM (+)]
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Name: Chenoa Frazer
Jacksonville Florida (Zone 8b)
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chenoa0125
Jul 18, 2015 8:28 AM CST
@dave do you guys still sell seeds? I've looked all over the site and cannot find anything or on the website
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Jul 18, 2015 10:05 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

We quit selling seeds. It was fun but the children decided that they had much more fun selling plants locally rather than seeds over the internet.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
Seed Starter Vegetable Grower Birds Butterflies Dog Lover Cat Lover
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Weedwhacker
Jul 18, 2015 10:29 AM CST
Hi Chenoa -- you've already been given a LOT of good information, hopefully this isn't just all adding to the confusion.

When I start seeds in cell packs I remove the cover once the majority have sprouted; otherwise I've had problems with the little seedlings rotting. But once the covers are off you do have to check daily so they don't dry out. Ideally (in my mind, at least), once the seedlings have reached a size that isn't too hard to handle they should be moved to individual pots. That said, mine often stay in the cells much longer than that, waiting for me to take time to pot them up; if that happens, be sure to kind of break up the mass of roots to help them continue growing (I just use my fingers to kind of split them up).

Planting calendars can often be quite misleading, although they do offer a starting point, at least. This does seem quite early to me for you to have Brassicas started (I've just recently started some for a fall harvest myself), but at any rate I think the very best way to get the timing right is to start a few plants every week or so and just keep planting... some will have been started too early that way, and some too late, but the others will do well. The timing can vary from year to year, but after a few years of keeping track of your results you'll be able to narrow the time frame down quite a bit. And some things are much more forgiving than others...

The biggest thing is to keep in mind that every year some things will work and some things won't -- enjoy your successes and learn from the failures, and as Rick said you will soon be teaching gardening to the Master Gardeners! Smiling
"Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained."
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Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Jul 21, 2015 9:24 AM CST
Chenoa, I had a further thought on your early plantings. My first year here I planted 9 plants of broccoli all on the same day into my beautiful new raised bed. A couple of months later I was harvesting 9 beautiful heads of broccoli in the same week. Needless to say, that was too much broccoli all at once! I gave all the neighbors freshly picked broccoli that week. Then, well there was no more (fresh) broccoli for a couple of months as I had to buy and re-plant transplants in December.

The point here is, although broccoli will continue to produce side shoots, if you want to have a continuous harvest of broccoli, and also cauliflower you need to plant new seeds at least once a month so that you have a succession of plants to put out, and will have a succession of harvest as well.

I now start 3 cells of broccoli and 3 cells of cauliflower every 3 weeks starting in mid-August. My Earth boxes accommodate 3 plants very nicely. This gives me a well spaced harvest through the winter and spring months, enough for the two of us plus some to give away to friends as well.

I also think you're going to find your lettuce and spinach will get bitter, and bolt to flower if you plant them before September. Our sun is just too hot, and days are still very warm until November.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill

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