When to start cole crop seeds?

peel(z6 CT)January 28, 2009

I'm so confused. The Seed To Seed book says (for the northeast in general) to start in a greenhouse April 15 and to plant out around May 20. By calculating using my average frost dates, Mel's book says to start seed in the first week of February and plant out the third week of March (5 weeks before last frost). The farmer's almanac website (calculated to my zip code) says to plant outside May 24-31. That's a huge date spread. Unfortunately the CT Extension Service doesn't really focus on vegetable gardening, so they're no help. Who do I trust??

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sinfonian(U8b A2 S5 SeaWA)

I planted indoors and transplanted according to Mel's schedule. They worked fine. Try succession gardening to be safe (every two weeks). Then if one planting fails, you're fine.

Your extension office doesn't know veggies?!? Insane. I would tell them that soon they will be inundated by calls on veggies so they should learn fast. Hehe.

Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sinfonian's garden adventure

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 3:21PM
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peel(z6 CT)

Thanks. I decided I'm going to follow Mel too. I started some broccoli today just to get used to the process. I am planning to succession plant as well.
My extension website is very strange...they have some separate guides for a few types of veggies but not an overall planting guide. I actually did email them late last year because I thought I must have been missing the section. But no, they just don't have a complete guide other than what varieties are recommended for CT. No planting recommendations.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 3:42PM
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There are so many sources, so may I recommend yet another? You should post on the veggie page and see if there's anyone there with a successful garden in your area. I think having someone locally with experience would be a great resource. Just imho. I'm with sinf: what's up with an extension that knows nothing about veggies? Creepy.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 6:13PM
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peel(z6 CT)

No kidding! I just looked back in my email and this was their response after I asked about info on planting recommendations:

"The seed packages contain a wealth of information on planting time, germination rates, soil temperatures, date to harvest etc.

You might also check the information in seed catalogs and purchase a book on vegetable gardening."

I lurk in the vegetable forum and I'm paying more attention now that people are beginning to plan for this year. Maybe I'll put together a better-worded question and head over. Thanks!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 7:59PM
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I think your about a month early on that. I know for my zone the guaranteed last frost date is May 15th. April 21st is the first day on average that soil temps are above 50 degrees in my area. I wouldn't start anything before the first week of March for where you are. That's when I'm going to start my lettuce seeds and then transplant them out into the garden under hoop houses a couple weeks later. Broccoli and the other cole crops won't be started until the second or third week of March probably.

Have you checked out www.timssquarefootgarden.com? He's also in zone 6 and gives a good timeline to follow.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tim's SQFT Garden

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 9:08AM
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peel(z6 CT)

I hadn't seen Tim's blog before, thank you for the link! Do you follow Mel's timeline? I don't have the book in front of me but based on his calendar I would be starting broccoli this week or next week for the first succession planting. My last frost date is May 12th, but I would be putting broccoli out a lot earlier than that since it can handle mild frosts. I'll also plan on covering them up if a deep frost is expected.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 10:09AM
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peel(z6 CT)

Also, I just noticed that Tim says he is in Zone 5 on his planting calendar page.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 10:18AM
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Honestly, zones aren't the important thing in growing things. If anything, zones are a generality. For example, I'm in an area near the edge of a valley. It tends to be a bit colder and windier here that at the bottom of the valley. Technically I'm a zone 5 by the zone map, but I know that I'm actually more like a 6 in actual weather.

Soil temperature is the important thing. Without the right soil temperature, nothing will happen. If you know your local soil temperature you can surmise that your raised beds would be 2-4 degrees warmer due to the fact that they heat up earlier.

I checked on average temps for Hartford,CT and for the past 30 years, the average temps in March range from 29 to 37 degrees. Last year you only had 3 or so whole days with a temperature above freezing in March, while you had 15 days that were lows 15 degrees or lower. I don't think that your cole crops would do so well in that environment unless you went with supplemental soil heating, hoop houses...etc. April you didn't have any nights below freezing, so it's a safer bet. I think that you would be safer to wait until it's a bit warmer, but ultimately it's your choice.

If your local agricultural station keeps soil temperature data that would be your best bet. My local university agricultural division operates sites around the state with soil temperatures, so I know that around here april 21st is the average date for when soil warms above 50 degrees. Of course I'm preparing ahead with IRT 100 mulch, and hoop houses for those unexpected cold snaps like we got a couple years ago. That being said, I'm still following a planting calendar similar to Tims

Here is a link that might be useful: soil temp map

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 12:21PM
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Also, if you check out this page: http://www.harvestwizard.com/2009/01/average_date_of_the_last_frost.html

He states:

 Cool-weather vegetables require a minimum average soil temperature of 40° to 50°F for planting, and an average air temperature range of 60° to 85°F (optimal is 70°F) for sustained growth. The maximum air temperature for cool-weather crop productivity is 86°F, above this temperature cool-weather crops will bolt or quit growing.

 Warm-weather vegetables require a minimum average soil temperature of 50°F for planting, and an average minimum air temperature of 75°F for sustained growth. The maximum air temperature for warm-weather crop productivity is 110°F, above this temperature most warm-weather crops will die, just as they are likely to die at 32°F.

 Temperature affects a plant's rate of growth. The higher the soil and air temperature above the minimum, the faster a plant will grow.

 Two-thirds of the growth time necessary for a plant to reach harvest and maturity should be at or above the optimal air temperature; the remaining one-third should be between the minimum and optimal temperature.

Not picking on you, just a slow day at work due to the weather :)

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 12:57PM
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peel(z6 CT)

Thanks for all that info. I was planning on putting plastic down early to warm up the beds and then build hoop houses with plastic. And I believe the plant-out date suggested by Mel's calendar was the first week in April if I'm not mistaken. I'll double check that when I get home.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 1:24PM
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peel(z6 CT)

Sorry, Mel's calendar was the 4th week in March....split the difference from what I said earlier!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 1:26PM
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peel(z6 CT)

I appreciate all of the info you researched for me. I don't think that came across clearly enough!

One thing about using Hartford as a guide is that even though I am inland like Hartford is, I'm closer to the coast than Hartford so we do tend to warm up a bit faster. Not a monumental difference, of course, but it's there.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 1:44PM
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peel(z6 CT)

OK, I should know not to trust my memory. I've got the book in front of me now, and I had previously written in dates above his timeline. My last frost date according to the Farmer's Almanac is April 24th. (At work I was looking at the Victory seeds website to get my frost date, which isn't as accurate as the updated Almanac). Mel suggests planting broccoli outside 5 weeks before that date, which takes me to appx. March 19th. He suggests starting seed indoors 8 weeks prior to that, which takes me to appx. January 25th.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 7:05PM
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shebear(z8 NCentralTex)

One thing you have to consider. Broccoli can take the cool days and nights but has trouble with the heat making it flower. However, cabbage will button if it's subjected to under 40 degrees for an extended length of time. Evidently it triggers it to head immediately so plant the broccoli early but be prepared to protect the cabbage.

See this link

And for more "eye rolling back into your head" info

Here is a link that might be useful: cole veggie info

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 10:31PM
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shebear(z8 NCentralTex)

Oops! I see broccoli doesn't like extended cold periods either.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 10:39PM
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Have you tried asking on the New England gardening forum? Maybe there are others near you that might have experience?

I'm going to start some cool-weather crops soon under plastic hoops. I figure if they freeze, I'm only out a few seeds. I'm just going to try a few of each, nothing major.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 9:57PM
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peel(z6 CT)

Shebear, we don't like cabbage, so no worries about that! Thanks for the link, I'm reading it now.

Greenbean, there are too many darn forums around here! I'm going to do the same as you. I'd rather take the chance of losing a few seeds in the hopes of getting some early produce.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 10:56AM
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I put the plastic over one bed today to warm it up. I'm going to add jugs of water and some black rocks. I strung one strand of large bulb Christmas lights just in case and put one of the remote thermometers in there so I can monitor temps from my living room. The soil in at least part of the bed stays pretty warm. There are worms just a couple inches down in the mulch (the part of the bed that I covered with landscape fabric). I figure I'll give it a little time to warm up with the plastic, pre-sprout some seeds (lettuce, spinach, broccoli, carrots, radishes & scallions) plunk them out there and see what happens. If they freeze, I'll just try again later. I'm planting the center 2 squares the length of one of my 4x10 beds.

peel, I have gotten a lot of good info from folks on the Rocky Mtn Gardening forum. I think regional groups can help a lot.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 10:47PM
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peel(z6 CT)

I'll have to venture over to the New England forum again. I used to keep abreast of the conversations going on but they're almost always about flowers, not much veggie talk.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 12:05PM
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