#7: The Danger of Planting too Early

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When you plant warm season crops too early you’re not getting a head start. In fact, planting too early may cause more harm than good!

A podcast about the dangers of planting warm season crops too early.

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When you see others rushing to get their garden planted does it make you feel behind? Or make you suddenly feel rushed to get everything in the ground?

It’s what I like to call spring gardening fomo, which is the fear of missing out. 

I’ve definitely felt that way before but I’ve learned to be a bit more patient which has led to better gardening results. And so in today’s show I’ll be covering all the details!

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Planting too Early Can Cause More Harm Than Good

When you plant warm season crops too early you’re not getting a head start. Even though seeds may still germinate and seedlings will likely survive, the plants are going to be slow growing and pretty much stagnant until the weather is consistently warm enough.

I’ve heard of many gardeners even having stunted plant growth the entire season when they’ve planted too early.

This isn’t true for all warm season crops, many will just stay stagnant and then take off once the weather warms up, but for certain crops such as peppers I’ve heard of many gardeners experiencing poor growth the entire season when they plant too early. 

Results of Planting too Early

When you plant too soon when temperatures are too cool it can cause stunted plant growth, wilting, surface pitting, foliage necrosis, increase disease, and prevent healthy root development.

The problem is that there are so many online gardeners out there that only talk about “planting dates” they don’t mention the ideal temperature required for warm season crops to thrive.

Warm season crops need soil that is ideally around 70°F or warmer for successful seed germination and the plants need daytime temperatures consistently in the 70’s and above with nighttime temperatures consistently in the 50’s and above.

So the date on the calendar does not matter if these ideal planting conditions are not met.

But it’s very common to have unpredictable weather in early spring so you’re much better off waiting to plant until the future forecast is consistently warm with no storms in the near future.

For us here in the Central Valley of California, we had a few really warm days in early March but then many cool days in the low 60’s with nights in the low 40’s.

Then in early April we had one day that was 80°F and the next day was 50° and raining. So personally I’ve held off planting so that my plants were not damaged and so temperatures could warm up for optimal plant growth.

Planting Tips for Warm Season Crops

When spring arrives and you start planning which warm season crops to plant just remember that early is not better.

Even if somebody tells you to plant early to get a “head start” that won’t happen unless the weather is favorable.

I also recommend direct sowing the majority of warm season crops if you live in a climate with a long growing season. Check out this episode here, 5 Summer Crops You Should Directly Sow by Seed.

Direct sowing seeds is so much easier because you don’t have to go through the trouble of starting seeds indoors or in a greenhouse, repotting them, setting up a grow light, etc.

You can just stick the seeds directly in the soil and as long as it’s warm enough and you keep the soil moist, they should successfully germinate and your plants will grow great.

In fact, there are many crops that don’t like their roots disturbed so direct sowing them is the preferred method.

The only two summer crops I always transplant are tomatoes and peppers.

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Another planting tip for your spring garden if you live in a warmer climate is to focus your attention on warm-season crops not cool season crops. In colder climates, spring is a great time for planting cool season crops because there are plenty of cool days for the crops to mature.

But in a warmer climates, spring warms up way too fast which will cause most cool season crops to bolt and head to seed.

However, one thing I’d love to encourage you to try is a cut and come again garden. I first heard about this from Renee Shepherd who is the founder of Renee’s Garden Seed Company which is one of my favorite seed suppliers.

Grow a Cut and Come Again Garden

With a cut and come again garden, you sow baby mix lettuce varieties, spinach, cilantro, and other leafy greens by seed out in the garden and you harvest them when they are young, about 4-5 inches tall, leaving about an inch stub at the base. Then you re-seed often so that you have a continuous supply of fresh greens growing. 

It’s a great way to get a continuous supply of fresh greens all throughout the year even in months when the weather isn’t necessarily favorable for these leafy greens to grow.

The beauty of vegetables like leafy greens is that you don’t have to wait for them to fully mature like you would want to with a head of cauliflower, you can harvest the plants young which is what allows you to grow them year-round depending on where you live. 

But the key is that you need to re-seed often so that you always have young seedlings coming up. 

Join the Zone 9 Garden Club

Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is reach out to other gardeners for help. I would love for you to join the Zone 9 Garden Club!

As a member you get,

  • Monthly video garden tours and trainings
  • Monthly growing calendars for zone 9
  • Timely harvesting & planting tips
  • Access to an active community off of social media
  • A resource library full of gardening courses and guides
  • And more!

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Podcast Episode Resources and Links Mentioned

The Danger of Planting too Early