I’m so grateful for this time of year! It’s why I love living in a place with four seasons. The weather warms up, the birds return, the ground begins to thaw, buds form on the trees – there is an energy in the air that is infectious. As the sunlight returns more and more each day and melts the snow, I begin to imagine plants in the fields soaking up the warmth and energy of the rays. Some of you may be wondering when you can begin the wonderful work of preparing your own gardens.
Maybe you want to start plants at home with heating mats and grow lights or maybe you want to know when it’s safe to plant certain things outside. If you aren’t starting plants from seed at home, I’d like to encourage you to get your plants from our annual seedling sale in May! We will have a wide variety of vegetables, flowers and herbs available, which we grow from seed at the farm using organic soil and fertilizer. Online orders will begin at the end of April and we will be open for in-person shopping on May 8th, 9th, 15th and 16th from 9 am – 2 pm.
If you are starting from seed at home, just work backwards from when you’d like to plant outside. For our area of Massachusetts, our last frost date is May 10th. This means that if you do plant out into your gardens or pots before this, you need to cover your plants or bring pots inside in case there is a frost. At Stearns, we begin planting certain crops by mid-April and wrap them with row cover (day and night, only uncovering to weed) until the threat of frost has passed. The lists below give you an idea of what vegetables can be planted when and how long they spend in the greenhouse.
Crops that we plant before the last frost – around April 15th (typically spend 4-6 weeks in the greenhouse):
Crops that we plant after the last frost date – around May 15th (time in the greenhouse varies):
Tomatoes (6-8 weeks in the greenhouse)
Squash (4 weeks in the greenhouse)
Peppers (8 weeks in the greenhouse)
Eggplant (8 weeks in the greenhouse)
Cucumbers (4 weeks in the greenhouse)
Tomatillo (6-8 weeks in the greenhouse)
Husk Cherries (6-8 weeks in the greenhouse)
Basil (6 weeks in the greenhouse)
If you are seeding at home, it helps to have heating mats as well as grow lights (though it’s not required). Most seeds need to be in soil that reaches a certain temperature in order to germinate. I typically keep our heating mats at 60ºF for most things, but your seed packet may give you a more specific temperature. Grow lights keep seedlings from getting leggy so they can produce strong roots and stems. This helps reduce shock when they are exposed to the elements and gives them the opportunity to get nice and big to get a happy jump start on the season.
For flowers, I recommend following what it says on your seed packet. They often need more specific things and vary greatly when it comes to seeding dates and recommended methods of growing. For crops you seed directly into the ground (carrots, peas, beans), also take a look at your seed packet for recommended seed dates.
If you have questions about seeding at home or about our seedling sale in May, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and happy growing!
Until next time,