Sunday, February 5, 2012

Stretching the Season

Since I still haven't found my garden journals, I started making some new notes.  I live in North Eastern Ontario, in a 2a growing zone.  Frost free range for 2012- June 8th to September 6th (89 day growing season).  It's a short season.  In order to harvest what I plant, I try to stretch the season as much as I can.

My seed packets give the following guidelines.
Peppers- 70-75 days to harvest.  Start indoors mid Feb to late March/10-12 weeks before required for garden.  Transplant late May.
Tomatoes- Days to maturity 65-76.  Sow seeds indoors 6-10 weeks before last frost.
Broccoli- 70 days to harvest.  Sow indoors 6-8 weeks before transplanting outside.

Brussels Sprouts- 90 days to harvest.  Start indoors 4-5 weeks before last frost.
Cabbage- 65-68 days to harvest.  Best started indoors 4-5 weeks early.
Cucumbers- 67 days to harvest.  Indoors 3-4 weeks before setting out in garden, or direct sow outdoors. 
Pumpkins- 75-110 days to harvest.  Sow seeds outdoors late May/June.  Indoors 3 weeks early.
Squash- 80-90 days to harvest.  Sow outdoors late May/June.  Indoors 3 weeks early.

Parsnip- 105 days to harvest.  Sow mid to late spring.

Now, I'm pretty sure the seed packets all pretty much say the same thing, and it's up to us to adjust for our individual climates.  Like if you live far enough south, you grow brussels sprouts and cabbage in the winter, and if you live far enough north, you start your seeds much earlier.

I'm also pretty sure that the seed packets assume that after that last frost, you enter into warm spring weather, followed by some heat in the summer.  And while that does happen from time to time (last year was amazing!), our normal summer weather is more like other folks' spring.  Lots of rain, with average temps in the mid 20s. (Celsius).  Which for me means slower growing plants and more time needed to ripen.  On top of that, our springs tend to be hot and dry (necessary to melt all that snow), which kind of stunts the early garden growth.

And, finally, when they say '65 days to harvest', they don't actually mean '65 days until you should be rolling in the veggies'.  They mean something more like '65 days til the first fruits start to ripen'.  Which means that I'm often just starting to see my plants start producing when frost warnings start coming.

19 weeks before frost free- Jan 27th (222 day growing season)
This is when I started my tomatoes in 2010, which were just starting to ripen when we got frost.  I'm sticking with this date because I now have the greenhouse to help them along.  Also started my peppers this week in 2012.
16 weeks before frost free- Feb 17th ( 201 day growing season)
This is when I would normally start my peppers.  I'm going a little earlier this year, hoping for bigger, and more peppers.  Which means I have nothing planned for February.  Which means I will probably start something I didn't plan, because I'll be itching to play with dirt.  So maybe I'll plant a little herb garden, along with some salad greens.  We'll see. 
10 weeks before frost free- May 30th (159 day growing season)
Seed packets- Peppers (75).  Planning to start the broccoli here.  Almost 4 weeks earlier than last year.  Only planning to put 4 or 5 in the greenhouse this year.  The rest will be put out in the garden, and while most did mature last year, I don't want to trick myself into believing we'll have two beautiful summers in a row.
8 weeks before frost free- April 13th (145 day growing season) 
Seed packets- broccoli (70), tomatoes (76).

7 weeks before frost free- April 20th (138 day growing season)
When I plan to start 1st batch of cucumbers, because 2012 is the YEAR OF THE CUKE!, brussels sprouts, cabbage.
5 weeks before frost free- May 4th (124 day growing season)
When I plan to start squash, pumpkins and 2nd batch of cucumbersSeed packets- Brussels Sprouts (90), Cabbage (68).  They might make it if I started them here.  I might start some greens, beets, mangels, to transplant.  Maybe a few of everything I would normally direct sow, just to see how it goes.  Depends how busy I am in getting the garden ready to plant.
3 weeks before frost free- May 18th (110 day growing season)
Seed packets- Squash (90), Pumpkins (110), Cucumbers(67).  They'd barely be producing when fall frosts hit, IF we got the summer heat.  Not soon enough!
I'll probably be direct sowing/transplanting into the greenhouse here- lettuce, chard, onions, as well as starting peas and beets outside.
Frost free-June 8th (89 day growing season)
The rush is on to get everything else into the garden.  Carrots, potatoes, beans, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, turnip, and onions, along with all of the transplants.

So that's my plan so far. 


  1. That is a really big plan. With a growing season like that, I would be itching for a greenhouse, one that could be opened for the warm weather and then closed for the cooler period at the end. Of course, starting things there would make it less complicated. That itch might not be scratched! Do any people/individuals there use greenhouses because of the short growing season?

    1. I have two 12X12 greenhouses now. I started my seedlings in them last year, but an overnight freeze on May 16th killed almost everything. If it were only frost we had to worry about here, we'd be fine. Someday we may get a broiler and heat the greenhouses, but not in the near future. People use greenhouses here because of the lack of heat in the summer, and excessive rain. It's a gamble whether they lengthen the season.

  2. i'm with PracticalP - you need a greenhouse or a cold-frame. but i am mighty impressed. and still laughing about all of the snow. this island has changed me. i no longer have to deal with 9ft snowbanks and -20C.

    but you are still my hero, Wendy!

    your friend,

    1. Thanks, kymber. Hopefully, it's a change for the best. Wouldn't want that island making you soft, lol.