When To Plant Seedlings Outdoors

April 16th: Seedlings galore by flickrich

TheGardenLady received this question about starter planting.

We have plants that we started in the window and green beans are 4 in and our corn is right behind. We have other veggies that are a little slower. We live in Olathe Kansas. When can we put them all out?

People read the directions on packages of seeds and often it says to start the seeds by first planting them indoors a certain number of weeks before the last frost date and after that last frost to transplant the seedlings outdoors. The seed companies cannot tell you when to plant seeds outdoors because they have no idea where the purchaser lives.

Each temperature zone has a different last frost date – some Temp. zones don’t always get a frost some years. And even in the same Temp. zone no one knows exactly when the last frost date will be. Where you live might be warmer because you are near the ocean or colder because of various reasons. So how are you supposed to know?  (see here)

In the olden days, before scientific advances, farmers had folk methods of telling when to plant. Certain holidays signaled the planting of certain plants. For example, people planted peas on St. Patrick’s Day. Some farmers planted by the waxing and waning of the moon. Appalachian farmers used the zodiac for planting times-Gemini was considered a good time to plant all crops.

When I was a child whose parents tried to eke out a living by farming, the last frost was a time of major concern. If you waited too long to plant your tomatoes, you lost out getting the highest price when you sold your harvest because the earliest ripe tomatoes got the best price at the canneries. If you brought them in when everyone else’s tomatoes ripened, because you waited to plant when it was safe like most of the farmers, your harvest did not fetch a good price. Some times the price was so low when everyone had tomatoes ripen at the same time, that you might not get anything for the crop. But what if you planted your tomatoes early and there was a frost that ruined your entire planted field? You could have lost your entire profit for that one summer even if you planted a second time.

Farmers would discuss the last frost possibility amongst themselves hoping that they could know what Mother Nature had in store, hoping they would remember all the previous frost dates and hoping they would beat the others in a safe planting for an early harvest. We looked for signs like whether the leaves on trees were fully opened to try to gauge whether there would be a late frost. If the trees were fully leafed out, we hoped that there would not be another frost.

Today we have more scientific studies of last frost days. Unfortunately even these are not 100% accurate. But if you want to know the most scientific estimate of the last frost day in your area so that you can safely transplant the seedlings you started indoors, contact your Cooperative agricultural extension office or your local Master Gardener office and they will tell you the date they expect will be the last frost date where you live.

Or check on the dates on some of the computer sites that give last frost dates. (see here). Dave’s Garden site has a slot for you to put your zip code in and they will give you dates that they feel will be safe to plant your seeds outdoors.  (see here)

Good luck.

One Reply to “When To Plant Seedlings Outdoors”

  1. Tengo esta planta y cuando floreció guarde las semillas y. Las sembré tres meses después y brotó una planta diferente , por favor me pueden decir algo al respecto gracias

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