My Planting Schedule: Spring 2021

I wrote about what I’m planning to grow next year. I already started the parsley and chervil to test out my seed-starting set up.

Since that is working, I’m now going to figure out when should I start the other seeds.

I got the California Master Gardener Handbook out of the local library. Here is what it says for each of the plants I’m planning to grow (these are “recommended planting dates” for the “North and North Coast region”):

  • Tomatoes – May
  • Cucumbers – April to June
  • Peas: Jan – April
  • Beans: May-June
  • Carrots: Jan – May and June-Aug
  • Beets: Feb – Aug
  • Summer squash: May – June
  • Winter squash: May
  • Onions (green) – April-Jul
  • Onions (bulb) – Jan-March

The month of May seems really late to be staring tomato seeds in zone 9b, doesn’t it? In the “Tomato” section of the book, they say to start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before your last frost date. Our last frost date is February 22….6-8 weeks before that is Dec 28 – Jan 11. So, am I supposed to start the seed at the beginning of January and then wait 5 months before planting them out in the garden in May? That doesn’t seem right.

I’m going to use my “gardening intuition” (ha) and pick planting dates that seem reasonable to me. I’ll learn what works and what doesn’t and I’ll adjust accordingly in years to come.


JANUARY
  • Early January: start onions (both bulb and green onions) indoors
  • Mid January: start echinacea indoors
  • Late January: start sweet peas indoors and direct sow peas (snow peas/snap peas) outdoors
FEBRUARY
  • Early/mid February: start tomatoes, cucumber, basil and zinnia seeds indoors
  • Late February: start winter and summer squash indoors; direct sow carrots and beets outside
MARCH
  • Early March: direct sow cilantro, marigolds, and pole beans

I know some gardeners will look at this list and scoff, but I’m sticking with it. I think having an imperfect planting schedule, is better than no planting schedule, because without a planting schedule I might not get seeds in the ground at all.

If you’re curious, here’s some of my logic for my planting schedule:

  1. I’ll use our “last frost date” of February 22nd for my timing
  2. Aim to plant tomatoes in late March once soil has warmed up a bit? So start 8ish weeks prior… = early February
  3. Cucumbers, basil and zinnia seem like they’d like the conditions that tomatoes like, so I’ll use the same planting schedule for them
  4. Peas should be direct sown and tolerate the cold, so late January is ok, I guess?
  5. Beans also should be direct sown, but do not like cold soil (they will rot before they germinate if the soil is too cold), so wait until the soil is warmer to direct sow them (early March?)
  6. Carrots and beets should be direct sown, and they reasonably cold tolerant, I think?
  7. Some say summer and winter squash should be direct sown; others say you can start indoors to get a head start. I started seeds in pots and transplanted them last season, and that seemed to work well. I’ll start the seeds indoors, but transplant them outside after only 3-4 weeks. I want to plant them outside in mid-March (after our last frost), so start the seeds inside in late February
  8. Cilantro is cold tolerant, but should be direct sown after last frost?
  9. Onions should be started sooner rather than later. I want to start onions inside and let them put on quite a bit of growth before transplanting. This might be the wrong way to do, but I’m gonna do it this way anyway.

Organizing My Seeds for Next Year

Well, this past garden season was a bit mediocre, but I’m looking ahead and starting to think about what I’m going to plant next year. This coming year, 2021 will be the only full year that I will have in Palo Alto to garden. I’ll move again in July of 2022, so I’ll only have half of a garden season in 2022.

To start my garden planning process, I organized my seed collection to figure out what I had to work with.

Here’s what I’ve got:

Flower Seeds: Marigolds, sweet peas, zinnias, and echinacea (all self-collected)

I planted the same marigold seeds this past year. I didn’t think they were spectacular, but I might try them again in a different spot to see if different conditions might improve them. I also plant a couple of each of the of the sweet peas, zinnias, and echinacea to see if my seed saving was successful.

Herbs: basil, holy basil, parsley, cilantro, and dill

Of the herbs, I’ll plant the Italian basil and cilantro (both the store bought and self-collected seeds to compare). I also have Thai basil that I’m trying to winter over. The parsley didn’t germinate for me this year in any of my three attempts, so I think this seed is a dud. I really want parsley, though, so I think I’ll buy a new seed packet.

Greens: kale and mustard greens

I grew these this past year, and they’re still puttering along in the garden. I expect they’ll likely winter over and will hopefully take off in the spring, so I probably won’t have to plant more of these.

Tomatoes!

I have one store-bought tomato and four kinds of self-collected seeds (some of which are hybrid, and won’t grow true). I think I’ll plant one of each to see what works and what doesn’t in this climate.

Root vegetables: carrots and beets

I tried planting these this year, and they were a failure. The beets came up, but a critter started chewing on their leaves before they were barely 2 inches tall. I’ll need netting if I’m going to try beets again. As for the carrots, I think maybe one carrot seed germinated, but it didn’t last long. I’m not sure if this is because the seed is too old, or if I let the soil dry up and that killed their germination. I might try again in the garden boxes, which have better soil than the in-ground area.

Onions!

Onions! I plan to try a handful of white bunching seeds and three walla wallas. I’ll start these indoors and wait until they’re a substantial size before transplanting them outside.

Peas and beans; Snow peas, sugar snap peas, blue lake pole

I’ll try growing these again this spring. I also saved one pod of blue lake pole beans, so I can test my self-collected seeds against the store-bought seeds.

Squash and curcubits

I don’t think the Armenian cucumber seeds have ever germinated for me, so if I want cucumbers, I’ll have to buy a new seed packet. I’ll plant a couple of zucchini squash plants again this year. I’m also planning to save the seeds from the mystery squash I harvest last month (assuming the seeds are salvagable) and I’ll plant those. I’d like to also pick up a packet of acorn squash or some other tried and true winter squash variety.

In summary (What I plan to grow next year):

— Flowers: A couple each of marigolds, zinnias, sweet peas, and echinacea

— Herbs: Italian basil, thai basil (overwintered), cilantro, and parsley*

— Greens: hopefully overwintered kale and mustard greens

— Tomatoes: 5 different types of tomatoes

— Root crops: 2 kinds of carrots and 1 kind of beet

— Peas and beans: Sugar snap, snow peas, and blue lake pole beans (x2 kinds of seed)

— Squash: Zucchini, cucumber*, mystery squash seed, acorn squash*

*will need to buy seed packets

I’m glad that I’ll be mostly using seeds that I have this coming year. I don’t expect a huge success given how my garden did this past year, so I’d rather start with what I’ve got and learn a little.

Now, I have to make a plan for starting seeds (timing, direct sow vs transplant, etc) and figure out where everything is going to go in the garden space. Exciting! I love planning!