When do you plant....?

jeff_12422June 25, 2012

I know there are tons of charts out there I can consult, but I want to know what YOU all do, especially those in zone 9....

I'm asking b/c I see so many different plant dates and I'm getting confused about whether that's seed starting, or transplanting and if it's transplanting, how big should the plants be at that point.... etc.

For example, I'm already planning my fall vegetable garden. The broccoli seeds say that for my zone I can start planting them July 25, but then the more general guideline says to plant 4-6 weeks before the first frost. Ummm.... that's a 3 month difference in when to plant! So even if I were to start seeds in July, they'd be ready to transplant by mid-September or earlier, so still a whole month off from 4-6 weeks prior to frost.

How do you calculate when to start?

And I have some others that don't have dates on them... When do you start parsley, chamomile, and flowers like marigolds and calendula?

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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

Jeff, forget everything that's written on a seed package. It's inevitably wrong for here - that is, if you're in Phoenix. If you are, this is the best calendar I've found. It is extremely detailed, with notes on when to plant seeds, when to put in transplants, when you should be harvesting, etc. Btw, starting broccoli seeds in July is way too early.

There is another calendar that's mainly for flowers; I'll see it I can find that one, too.

Here is a link that might be useful: detailed planting calendar

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 1:48AM
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jeff_12422

I'm in Tucson, actually, but I would guess it's pretty much the same as Phoenix. Thanks for the link -- I hope it helps! Last year I planted too late and feel like I missed out on a good harvest, so I want to plant earlier, but too early wouldn't be worthwhile either...

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 12:05PM
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sherizona(9b)

Maricopa's Master Gardener Manual has all the planting dates listed by AZ region. It's the best one I've found. Hope that helps :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Maricopa Suggested Veggie Planting Spreadsheet

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 2:20PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

Jeff, here's the Pima County Master Gardener's manual for veggie gardening. You are probably at a slightly higher elevation that we here in Phoenix. And even here, elevation and microclimates make a lot of difference. Check page 7 to see the planting dates for elevations and recommended planting dates.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pima County veggie garden guide

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 8:25PM
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jeff_12422

That IS helpful... And it says July 25 for planting broccoli! (Tucson's at ~2400 ft elevation) That really just doesn't seem right. I guess I can try a few and succession plant.

That raises another question though.... If I use lights and start fall seeds in the shed, will it still be too hot in there? I figure it has to be better than planting outside with the sun being so strong, but the shed is in full sun and gets very hot inside.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 9:53PM
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haname(z9 AZ NE Phoenix)

sherizona,

That's a nifty chart. How can I find out what the regions are?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 12:46AM
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sherizona(9b)

At the top of the list it has the sea level elevations for each region - Region 1 is up to 1000 ft, Region 2 is up to 2000 feet, etc.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 11:30AM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

Jeff, I don't think starting your seeds in the shed sounds like a good idea. Why not wait till early fall and start them outdoors.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 11:36AM
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Pagancat(Phoenix, AZ)

Or start them in a window or a shelf with lights inside. It's really quite easy if you have the set up, it's hardening them off that can be really tough. You could also make a mini greenhouse in a partially shaded area outside. The outside part is tough to keep evenly moist for germination.

For the broccoli, I'd try a few seeds at their suggested time and try a few more when it's a little cooler. The Brassica family tend to be cool weather plants - I've seen broccoli mature with snow on it.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 1:05PM
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jeff_12422

I was going to set up lights in the shed, but I think that's going to be too hot. I'll do that in the winter for the spring seeds with a warming mat...

TF, I guess I don't have faith in direct seeding since my harvests have been so low the past couple (my first couple) of seasons. I think I'm planting too late, but even with starting tomatoes in January, my plants were still tiny compared to the starts everyone at my community garden were putting out, and now it's too hot for them to fruit, so I missed out on the early tomato season and have to wait til it cools off a little. Meanwhile, everyone else's tomatoes (and cucumbers and peppers....) are thriving and producing, and mine are still babies with maybe a flower. So I was thinking I didn't start soon enough and want to get a jump on fall. But you are right -- it makes no sense to go too early, I just don't want to miss my window again!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 10:02AM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

Jeff, something is wrong with your picture! You started tomatoes in *January* - and they never grew? Describe what you did, please. Start from seed? In ground? In cups? When did you transplant? What orientation, what kind of soil, etc. Starting your seeds that early should have resulted in big healthy plants - or so it seems. I can't imagine why they would still be "baby" size. ~~~ Don't give up! I've had no success with cukes or squash this year and only marginal success with tomatoes. Hope springs eternal, however, and I'll try again with a fall crop. ;o)

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 10:43AM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

Jeff, what varities did you plant? I have found that with our very short growing seasons, spring/fall, short DTM's are vital.

In the mini tomato forest in my spare bedroom most of the varities are 60 days or less to maturity. I sowed the seeds in flats (small 8-cell packs) in that back room on June 11th. This weekend I am potting them up to 4 oz dixie cups I find at Walgreens. They will stay in this cup maybe another month, then to the final, 1 quart container I will sell them in. I've been using old yogurt containers but am trying to find a better solution, ready-made (burning drainage holes in that many yogurt containers is tedious). I found a product I like at .12 each but the shipping is killing me.

The shed will be too hot. You could just let me start them for you. [big grin]. I'll be selling in Sept for planting out at that time, and have a dozen or more different varieties. Expect pricing at $4/each. Plus one flat of poblano chilies.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 11:32AM
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jeff_12422

All were started from seed in trays, inside with a light (regular incandescent -- I'm going to rig up one of those grow lights next time). When they seemed big enough, I transferred to used yogurt containers and hardened them off (March/April). Then transplanted them into the garden bed in April. Maybe not enough light/water?? All varieties were supposedly desert-adapted or native. (I get most of my seeds from Native Seeds/SEARCH.) So tomatoes were Ciudad Victoria, Nichols Heirloom and Punta Banda. The cucumbers were Armenians from a local lady who specializes in heat-tolerant open-pollinated seeds. I'm not trying to get Jersey Beefsteaks here!

The tomato plants are now a decent size, or so I thought til I saw my neighbors' plants, which of course are likely a different variety but still -- they're triple or quadruple the size of my plants! They're like trees! I felt really stupid walking down the aisles with my son, not able to answer him right away when he asked what kinds of plants those were, b/c I never saw a tomato plant that big. We're talking around 6 feet tall.

Two of the plants (Ciudad Victoria) produced a handful of tomatoes before the heat really set in, but the plants are now brown and dead-looking. I should have put up shade cloth. (Actually, I did, but the wind blew it down and since it's not right in my yard, I didn't know....) The other tomato plants, tomatillos, and cucumbers are surviving but not thriving or producing fruit (which I didn't expect in this heat, but thought I should have had SOMETHING to harvest before the heat wave).

My cucumber vines are only about a foot long, and had a couple flowers that didn't end up fruiting. They're pretty sickly looking. Those are in my square foot garden bed with Mel's Mix, along with some watermelons that are doing a bit better but still not as well as the same melons in the community garden bed. The community garden bed is in full sun and the soil is a mixture of whatever was there before (I don't know what the gardener before me used) plus a mixture of composted manure, peat moss and vermiculite (not an exact 1:1:1 mix like Mel's Mix supposedly is, I just dumped what I could into the barrow, mixed it up and dumped it in).

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 4:33PM
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jeff_12422

All were started from seed in trays, inside with a light (regular incandescent -- I'm going to rig up one of those grow lights next time). When they seemed big enough, I transferred to used yogurt containers and hardened them off (March/April). Then transplanted them into the garden bed in April. Maybe not enough light/water?? All varieties were supposedly desert-adapted or native. (I get most of my seeds from Native Seeds/SEARCH.) So tomatoes were Ciudad Victoria, Nichols Heirloom and Punta Banda. The cucumbers were Armenians from a local lady who specializes in heat-tolerant open-pollinated seeds. I'm not trying to get Jersey Beefsteaks here!

The tomato plants are now a decent size, or so I thought til I saw my neighbors' plants, which of course are likely a different variety but still -- they're triple or quadruple the size of my plants! They're like trees! I felt really stupid walking down the aisles with my son, not able to answer him right away when he asked what kinds of plants those were, b/c I never saw a tomato plant that big. We're talking around 6 feet tall.

Two of the plants (Ciudad Victoria) produced a handful of tomatoes before the heat really set in, but the plants are now brown and dead-looking. I should have put up shade cloth. (Actually, I did, but the wind blew it down and since it's not right in my yard, I didn't know....) The other tomato plants, tomatillos, and cucumbers are surviving but not thriving or producing fruit (which I didn't expect in this heat, but thought I should have had SOMETHING to harvest before the heat wave).

My cucumber vines are only about a foot long, and had a couple flowers that didn't end up fruiting. They're pretty sickly looking. Those are in my square foot garden bed with Mel's Mix, along with some watermelons that are doing a bit better but still not as well as the same melons in the community garden bed. The community garden bed is in full sun and the soil is a mixture of whatever was there before (I don't know what the gardener before me used) plus a mixture of composted manure, peat moss and vermiculite (not an exact 1:1:1 mix like Mel's Mix supposedly is, I just dumped what I could into the barrow, mixed it up and dumped it in).

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 5:51PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

Well, the Ciudad Victoria says it's 'late maturing' although the DTM (on a different site, Native Seeds doesn't show DTM) but I found it listed elsewhere as 64 days. That's not really 'late maturing' to me but if you didn't get it planted till April, that will push you to June for the 64 days. Too hot by then. I had everything planted by mid-March this year and they were pretty much done by June. Too hot.

Can't find DTM on Nicholas since it seems to be a family owned kind of seed. Native Seed is a great resource but the details are lacking a bit.

TomatoFest shows Punta Banda as 68 DTM, again not bad. I think you just got a late start and maybe need some organic matter worked into the soil.

Keep trying, it's how you'll figure it out. Good luck, hope I've helped some.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 6:31PM
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jeff_12422

Whoops, my bad. I got CV and Nichols confused. (I think I do that every time. The CVs are tiny round tomatoes and DELICIOUS -- if they come in. The few I got were bigger and oval -- definitely the Nichols.)

So, newbie question -- is DTM when you can expect to harvest, or just to the plant's growth before it starts to flower/produce fruit? And I didn't start the seeds in April, I started them in (late) January, so wouldn't that mean flowering/fruiting sometime in mid-April? Never happened. Is there a difference when you start seeds and transplant v. direct seeding? In all the reading I've done (and it's been A LOT) I've never seen this explained, and the planting dates never seem to specify whether it's setting out transplants (and if so, transplants that were started from seed HOW long before that?) or planting seeds (and if so, is it direct seeding or transplanting?).

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 8:17PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

Jeff, I've had trouble getting a definitive answer re: when does the DTM clock start ticking. But I've settled, for myself anyway, it's when the plant is hardened off and set into its growing medium. I understood that you started seed in Jan but that you planted out in April. That's what I consider the beginning of timing the DTM. If someone else cares to chime in, I'm happy to get more info.

There's also an enormous amount of discussion (and dissent) about BER: why it happens, what stops it etc etc

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 8:23PM
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jeff_12422

Just found this explanation.... But even this is inconsistent with others I've read that say to add 6-8 weeks (instead of 4-6) or that it's from the day you start seeds, or from the day the seeds germinate.... Do you just basically keep a journal of each variety and what DTM means for that particular plant?

Here is a link that might be useful: Definition of DTM

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 8:23PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

Jeff, if you don't have this book, try to find it; it is a terrific source of info on gardening in our climate. George Brookbank lived in Tucson and is considered to be the be-all and end-all of advice for veggie growers. I have the book and went to look up some info for you, but now can't find the book! He has some rather unconventional wisdom regarding tomato growing, but I thought it was quite common sense.

Btw, I transplanted three tomatoes that never made a single bloom - at least that I ever saw - so you're not alone!

Here is a link that might be useful: George Brookbank

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 2:04AM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

Here's a bit of George's advice from an old column in the Tucson newspaper. Some years ago, I had a super tomato garden. I took George's advice and let the indeterminate plants sprawl without support. I never had so many tomatoes; I couldn't keep up. My yard has completely changed now or I would repeat what we did then.

Btw, this is a very important factor: Our weather has changed. Planting dates will have to be adjusted if we are to continue having record-breaking heat in March year after year.

Here is a link that might be useful: growing tomatoes

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 2:15AM
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jeff_12422

Thanks, TF. I have read his book (got it from the library long ago) and did remember that he said not to stake the tomato plants but to leave them wild to protect the fruit.

I went down to the garden early this morning and had a few more fruits on the other plants that are now in the process of dying. I don't have any hay to mulch, but I'm considering running back down there with some of the litter from the mesquite trees in the yard -- is that stuff too stiff to be good mulch for the tomatoes?

I do have a few smaller plants that are doing great -- even flowering. How, in this heat??? They are being overrun by the watermelon vines. I tried to raise up the vines so they could provide some shade without them being tempted to strangle the tomato plants. I hope it works! The vines had already gotten the tomatillos but I managed to free them. I guess I'm going to have to go down there a few times a week to keep everyone playing nicely. And I saw a tiny tomatillo on one of the plants! SO EXCITED. Still not happy that I didn't have an earlier harvest but if some of these plants can be saved, I'll be happy with a later harvest.

There's also a big melon buried under all the mess of the vines. I have no idea how I'm going to get to it as the vines are a tangled mess. Should I just let them go and give everything else shade, or will they smother everything in their path?

(I know this has gotten way off topic, but between the frustratingly late plantings/small harvests the past two seasons, I want to salvage as much as I can.)

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 1:30PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

I'd leave the "tangled mess" alone; you'll figure out how to get to the melon one way or another. The mesquite litter should work just fine. And if you have some palo verde litter, that stuff is great! Glad to hear you have some good news.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 7:54PM
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jeff_12422

Thanks again. I'm going to get a copy of Brookbank's book and try to follow his calendar, and get some more tree litter to mulch. Now, if I can keep the ground squirrels away before I get to harvest!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 5:31PM
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laurahatt214(7-10)

Anyone know a good website for Golden Valley? That is where I live and just moved out here from FL...so different lol

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 7:25PM
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sundrop07(9b)

I usually try to get my fall garden planted mid Sept. This is cole crops, greens, peas, fennel, turnips beets, parsnips etc. The largest and best tomatoes I've grown were planted out last fall mid November. I had to cover with frost cloth a few times and didn't start getting ripe tomatoes til Apr. 1 but that's still the earliest I've ever picked ripe tomatoes. The largest one was a Mortgage Lifter that was the size of a softball, very prolific and most were good sized slicers. I has 2 San Marzanos that were huge and absolutely covered with tomatoes. One called New Sun produced 2 weeks earlier than the Early Girl I planted just to compare for earliness and was much tastier and also very productive. All my early spring transplanted tomatoes only lived a couple of months and were dead by mid April so I'll be doing fall tomatoes from now on.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 9:29PM
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