Set down the snow shovel, it's time to plant your seeds


Okay, it is still below freezing and maybe you're not quite ready to put away the snow shovel, but believe it or not you should be planning your spring seeds.

No, I'm not crazy.

Let's assume you want a slice of fresh garden tomato on your Fourth of July hamburgers.

What will it take to make sure your seeds become tomato-producing plants by July fourth?

First, you'll need to decide what you're going to grow.

You can find seeds locally at Bi-Mart and Home Depot, but for real variety you'll have to look to the Internet or specialty seed catalogs.

Botanical Interests, Renee's Garden, and Totally Tomatoes have been some of my favorite seed companies. All have online web sites.

Once you've chosen your seeds, and the packets have arrived, it's time to plan the growing schedule.

Look at the back of the seed packets to find the maturity date. It will be different for every variety of seed.

The maturity date is the time it takes a seedling to grow into a mature plant capable of producing fruit or flowers.

As an example, tomatoes can take 65 to 90 days to reach maturity.

If you want tomatoes by July 4th, then you need to backtrack, say 90 days, to determine the date your plants will need to be in the ground.

For a tomato with a 90-day maturity date that means getting your plants in the garden by the end of March.

However, before we can get plants in the garden, we have to take into account the month or more it will take to grow a seed into a plant that is ready for the garden.

Again, we backtrack to late February or early March to get the planting time for our tomato seeds.

Let's assume you purchased your seeds, then planted them in late February. They performed beautifully and you now have young plants that are ready for the garden.

Stop right here! There are a few more things to consider before putting plants in the garden.

Even though we planned our tomatoes for a late March garden transplanting, March is still a cold month in the Walla Walla Valley.

So what do you do now?

At this stage, there are two options.

While cold weather plants like lettuce and spinach will do fine outside in March, warm weather seedlings, like tomatoes, melons and peppers will need protection from temperatures that drop below 50 degrees.

The other option, if you don't have a covering for your crops, is to transplant the seedlings into larger containers and let them continue to grow.

Keep them inside or in a heated greenhouse until late April when the chance of cold-weather shock has passed.

This Fourth of July, with just a little proper scheduling and attention to local weather conditions, you can bask in gardening glory as your guests rave about the fresh garden salsa, reach for the homemade bruschetta topping, or pile garden tomato slices on top of your signature hamburgers.

Bryce Rugraff is the owner of The Plant Company and Plant Company Landscaping in Walla Walla.


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