Monday, February 13, 2012

Time to Start Cool Weather Seedlings Indoors - and Other Vegetables

News Flash - February 15, 2012
Brand New USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map has been finally published! Due to Global Warning Symptoms, great changes have been made in the traditional map. The seed packages of your favorite Garden Seed Companies have been produced too early to
be useful this year. Some states have changed as much as 2 zones.
My area near Wichita, Kansas is rated as 6b but because of my own microclimate. (Well protected from the North Winds, I am gambling and using the Zone 7 rating that begins about 30 miles further South on the Oklahoma border and a snip of South Central Kansas.  To check your new zone, view this map and just input your zip code. Your updated Zone will come right up. Go To:

It may look terrible dreary outside about now ( February 13 ) But here in South Central Kansas, it’s time to start seeds for cool weather plants like Cabbages, Spinach, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Celery, Parsley etc.  So start your seedlings indoors right now.
Start Tomato and Pepper seedlings indoors from February 15 thru February 29.  These can be started even later but will be set back a little from setting them out a little late. The New USDA Plant Hardiness Zone for the Wichita area and on South is Zone 6b but I use 7 because it is so close and for other reasons.

Earliest Set out dates:
Tomatoes – With protection – (Cloche,  Cold Frame, Etc.  – April 1
Tomatoes- No protection – from May 1.  I have set out tomato plants as late as Mid June to 1st of July but you are really pressing your luck to see them produce into the first frost.  Romas may make it, the others are iffy.

Peppers: Sweet Peppers  can be set out from about May 15 to  June 1. Anytime earlier than  May will still be too cool and the Peppers will not grow. They will just set there until the weather is warmer!  I found that I can plant Hot Peppers even later and they will have enough time to  mature before first frost.
I checked this information out with the Sedgwick County Extension Office in Wichita.  As with all gardening,  early set-out times are a Gamble. You may be caught with a late freeze. Always check your weekly forecast and be sure to cross your fingers!

One method you may have heard about how to protect tender plants (such as Tomatoes) from the cold is to set them under 2 liter Soda Bottles with the bottoms cut off.  2 Cautions:
1.     Leave the caps off during the heat of the day – your plants may cook otherwise.

2.     Drill about 6 quarter- inch holes  about an inch above the soil base to allow fresh air to come in during the heat of the day. Again, with the caps off. so your plants won’t cook!  Again.  Always remember to cap them up during the night and Remove the caps at sunup!

When to Set Out Cool Weather Plants:

Two Weeks before Last Freeze
   Swiss Chard

Four Weeks Before Last Frost
Spinach (up to 6 weeks !)
When to Set Out Warm Weather Crops
2 Weeks After Last Freeze

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