Gardeners Start your engines … er, I mean seeds!

AverageLastFreezeDates1

AverageLastFreezeDates

The Washington Post’s Adrian Higgins has the best charts/graphics we’ve seen for when you should start/sow your seeds. The first part of this article focuses on the Mid-Atlantic region, but also includes an adjustment schedule for the rest of the country. The important thing to remember, however, is that if you have been experiencing quirky weather (and who hasn’t lately) you need to use extreme caution determining when to “harden off” your seedlings for transplants. A sudden cold snap will destroy weeks of patient seed starting and an early day of bright sunshine and warmth can literally fry your little tomatoes enjoying their first outing. [Note: If you are unable to load the graphics, just google your zip code’s last frost date and count backwards from the time required for the seed you are starting. Remember, you must allow for sufficient “hardening off” time before setting outside or in the ground. Hardening off is the gradual process of acclimating your seedling to outdoor conditions. It must be gradual – starting at 15 minutes only in direct sunlight per day, or you will lose your seedlings to the harsher (sun, cold, wind) conditions. You start the hardening off inside by running a gentle fan over your seedlings as they grow. This will produce thicker, stronger stems. Also, be sure your seedlings get 14 hours of artificial “sun” that is close to them — no more than 3″ away — to encourage stout and hardy growth.]

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