I am in NOVA and wanted to know when will you all direct sow annuals (such as Marigolds, Zinnias, I have African Daisies, etc)
When the soil temperature reaches 65-68Â° about 3 inches below the soil's surface.
If you lay plastic over row cover, over the area, that might be as soon as April; but then you will have to replace the row cover each evening until the chance of frost is past.
Being a bit impatient, in late March I often start the seeds inside, setting the trays on top of the hotwater heater until they sprout. I prefer trays with individual seedling slots. Zinnias and marigolds are such fast growers that you will able to handle the seedlings in just a couple weeks for transplanting. And yes, I usually end up flipping the row cover over them almost every night until May... but by that time there are usually some blooms to enjoy.
A pretty good rule of thumb for planting annuals and direct sowing is not until after May 10th. We've actually had some frosts after that date but for the most part May 10 is the date.
I've planted a bit before and been really lucky but I've also planted before and everything got frost bitten and I had to start over again.
I had a friend who would put his house plants out on his front porch the first warm day we had and had been really lucky until one year everything froze and he was devastated. I hated to have to say "I told you so" but I had been saying for a long time it was really risky putting them out too early.
Anyway, May 10th.
I've found that Spring just doesn't pay any attention to our calendars. Any "last frost date" computed, simply means the *average* date of the last frost... and that doesn't even allow for those nights which get to 35Â° which is cold enough to terminate many tender plants. And who's to say that *this* year the last frost will be on May 20th or on March 25th? It's a guessing game, which is why I find a thermometer [to check the actual soil temperature] and lightweight row cover are necessities in spring. If Ann's neighbor had just swooshed some row cover over his/her plants each night, s/he wouldn't have had to face a bunch of frozen stems on an unexpectedly frosty morning.
If you're itching to sow those seeds, it's still not too late to "Winter Sow" them. (See the Winter Sowing forum for real advice.)
The general theory being that seeds are smarter than we usually give them credit. If you put them out in the cold (i.e. winter) then they go dormant until they get the right conditions (i.e. spring) to germinate.
I personally start veggies and a few seeds inside that I want to "get a jump on." But as far as direct sowing seeds in the spring, I don't! I "Winter Sow" and I have much better luck!
If you would like more info email me at: RZQuerry@msn.com or take a peak at the Winter Sowing Forum. I've been winter sowing for 5-6 years now. After many more years of trying to force those seeds to do what I wanted them to do, now I just sit back and let them do what they do best!
Okay, I feel stupid now. I live in Fairfax, A few weeks ago I searched all over the internet for the last frost date and the only one I discovered was April 1. Seeing that some of the vegetable seeds that I wanted to grow were supposed to be planted 1 mos before LFD. Over that super sunny weekend two weeks ago (March 10th-ish) planted some radishes, spinach, carrot and lettuce seeds outside.
Will they survive? or should I plant them again in a few weeks?
Quick update, actually, this morning when I was warming up my car I took a look at my garden. Didn't expect to see anything but I saw cute tiny radish and spinach leaves! I hope they survive the next month.
I guess I have been pretty lucky for many years. I have always followed the farmers almanac and start planting in Alexandria on April 1. I realize I am a little warmer than let's say Fairfax or Loudon, but I've never lost anything.
I'll start this weekend with some annuals, transplant a few things coming up and by the 10th of April, I am in full swing.
I did notice that the "long range forecast" is calling for lows this weekend around 30 degrees. I have learned to not trust the 24 hour forecast so who knows how low the temps will really get this weekend. Case in point...Saturday the radio said I was going to get dumped on with thundershowers on Sunday and I did not see a drop.
In Loudoun County I say May 1st to be safe... you can get a lucky April or an unfortunate May, but 4/15 - 5/1 is tried and true.
The cold rainy springs we get in the NW tend to stall out most early starts anyway until late May, so one may as well do some W/S, and seed heat lovers inside.
It's OK to plant out some strawberries and hardy perennials, and direct sow cole crops, radishes, garlic, onions, potatoes, and peas now, up to Zone 8. I seeded out some Radishes a month ago and they are starting to look like they'll be ready within a couple weeks. More seed goes in as I harvest.
I neglected W/S this year, so I still want to get lots of things going, next week. I do have some of Martin's Wisc 55 Tomatoes a couple inches high already, and will need to pot them on soon.
I've noticed that Marigolds started early in the warm tend to bloom sooner, but my compost tomatoes tend to catch up to anything I start indoors by the end of July anyway, so no big deal. All do better once they are established in the ground - and warm days have begun, so the ground can stay over 50 degrees F.
I've begun hardening off Pepper plants that I wintered over indoors...and am eager to get them in the ground soon.
Some things you can do in May/early April:
turn compost, dig weeds, mow,
and _harvest_ all possible Slugs,
if your area is prone to them.
Last year Slugs ate almost everything that
I set out to harden-off. It was devastating - as I was a indoor-seeding demon last year - and gave away a lot of starts before I knew I'd lose so much to hungry Slugs.
So it goes.
I realize this is an old thread, but it came up in my Google search for planting dates. So did this, which answers the question.
Here is a link that might be useful: Virginia planting dates