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Spring Planting Guide

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Tips for your best garden yet!

I sure can grow ’em, but where the heck am I gonna put all of them?

For gardeners old and new, the first sunny days of spring incite an industrious fervor that can border on insanity. If ever there was a way to bite off more than you can proverbially chew, it’s planting a garden after a long winter’s amnesia-inducing nap. Weeds? What are those? Canning? It’s heaven on earth!

So you rip up half your lawn and start buying seeds. As paychecks disappear into mountains of seeds and plant starts and bags of compost, may these tips help your (huge) gardens grow, well, huge…

 

What to grow:

  1. Grow what you like to eat. Seems simple, but many folks plant what they think they’re supposed to plant rather than what they actually want to eat.
  2. If you’re short on space, consider skipping things that are inexpensive to buy from local producers and/or that take up tons of space (cabbage, onions, potatoes), and focus on stuff that’s either expensive (kale, greens, herbs) or that tastes infinitely better homegrown (tomatoes).

 

When to plant:

Gardeners classify crops into cool- or warm-season crops. Cool season crops can handle frost and are generally planted in spring. Warm season crops can’t be planted outside until after the danger of frost has passed.

Some crops are “direct-seeded”—seeds planted right into the ground—while others are generally started indoors and transplanted outside later. The list below tells you which common garden crops are cool or warm season, and which should be direct seeded vs. transplanted.

 

Direct Seeding Tips:

  1. Don’t seed too deeply. Plant small seeds no more than ½” deep.
  2. Keep the ground moist until seeds germinate. Be patient—carrots especially take a long time to come up (sometimes 3 weeks!).
  3. Be sure to thin! Root crops like radishes especially need space to grow. Be a ruthless thinner, or you’ll end up with lots of leafy tops and no roots! Seriously, THIN like the dickens! Don’t feel bad!

 

Starting Indoors Tips:

  1. Light is crucial. It’s the biggest reason home gardeners end up with spindly plants. You can use a regular shop light (no fancy bulbs needed). Suspend it just a few inches above your seedlings and raise the light up as they grow. A window (even a south-facing one) is generally not enough light to avoid leggy seedlings! Keep your light on for 14 hours a day.
  2. Use potting soil (not regular soil). It is sterile and full of compost to help your plants grow strong!
  3. Keep seedlings moist, but cut back water if you notice mold growing on the surface.

 

Transplanting Tips:

  1. Harden seedlings off by setting them outside for a few hours a day for a few days before you transplant
  2. MAKE SURE TO WATER YOUR TRANSPLANTS! Transplanting is stressful on your plants, so make sure they have plenty of water in their new homes or they will surely perish with their tiny little roots.
  3. Make a small depression in the soil around the plants as you plant, like a moat, and then fill it up with water to get plenty of water to the tiny roots of your plants. Water deeply and often for at least 2 weeks to help them root deeply. You can also add compost to help feed them!

 

Planting Timeline:

Dates are for Treasure Valley. For other areas, look up your last frost date and work backwards from there. Some crops are listed for both direct seeding and starting indoors because they work well both ways.

 

Spring/Cool Crops 

Direct Seed (plant directly into the dirt outside) as soon as the ground can be worked in spring (March-April)

Peas

Radishes

Carrots

Beets

Turnips

Rutabagas/parsnips/other roots

Potatoes (protect tops from frost)

Scallions

Onion sets

Dill

Greens like spinach, arugula, mustards

Lettuce

Fava beans

Cilantro

Chard (April or later)

 

Start indoors early (Feb, or one month before ground thaws) and transplant outside in spring (March-May)

 Brassicas like broccoli, kale, collards, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi, cabbage

Alliums like onions, shallots, leeks

Head lettuces

Chard

Mustards

Parsley

Perennial flowers

Celery

Fennel (transplant Apr-May)

 

Summer/warm crops

 Direct Seed (plant directly into the dirt outside) after danger of frost has passed (late May/June)

Squash (summer and winter)

Basil

Beans (pole and bush)

Melons

Cucumbers

Corn

Soybeans/edamame

Sweet potatoes

Calendula

Short-season annual flowers

 

Start indoors in spring (March-April, or 6-8 weeks before last frost) and transplant after danger of frost has passed (late May/June)

Tomatoes

Eggplant

Peppers

Basil (start 4 weeks ahead)

Tomatillos

Ground Cherries

Long-season annual flowers

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Fall For Seeds!

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NOW is the time to seed your winter veggies and spring flowers!

Poppy Field CMYK

 

Q: Why can’t I get poppies to grow?

A: Because poppies, like many other beloved perennial flowers, need a series of frosts to “break dormancy” and sprout, so fall is the best time to plant them!

 

 

Yes, it’s true! Many of our most beloved garden perennial flowers, including many of our Idaho native flowers, need winter freezes and thaws to germinate. These flowers do best when thrown outside in fall or early winter and lightly raked in to the soil surface. All of the flowers listed in our Snake River Seed Co-op Fall Planting Guide (check it out below! Nice work, Lori!) will benefit from being fall seeded:

SRSC THEfall planting guide

Salad Mix MesclunAdditionally, fall is a great time to seed cool-season veggies for late fall eating, and some will even feed you through the winter and into next spring if you do it right! Many of the same crops you’d plant early in the spring can be planted in the fall, and some, like cilantro, fennel, and spinach, actually do BETTER planted now because the weather isn’t going from 60 to 90 overnight like it’s known to do in the Intermountain West.

Get the skinny on some of our favorite fall planted vegetables in the Fall Planting Guide above!

 

Here are a few more tips for successful fall planting!

To time your planting, follow these steps:
*Add 30% onto the days to maturity of each variety you intend to plant. The shortening days make things grow a little slower than they would in the spring, when days are getting longer.
*Decide when you want to be able to eat your crop. All of the varieties in our Seeds For Fall Planting web store section can handle some frost, but as we all know too well, our falls can be erratic, so it’s best to plan to eat your crops by Thanksgiving at the latest, unless you have protection like a greenhouse or cold frame. Some varieties, like Winter Giant Spinach and Cold-hardy Kale, seem to be able to make it all the way through most winters!
*Count backward to determine the planting time for your crop. Now is the time to plant pretty much anything, so don’t delay!