What clues do you have that it's time to plant different plants?

I’ve seen Joseph mention a few things that he looks for to plant seeds. Some of the packets he’s sent out have things like “when the snow finally melts”, etc. I’m wondering what everyone who has experience year after year looks for. I’d love to move away from the idea of “may 18th is the last frost date so 2 weeks before or after”, etc. And i’d be interested in learning what the rule of thumb is for each individual type of plant. Like if you’re going to plant some broccolish or wheat when is the best time to plant it in the fall. What do you look for to plant fava beans, and on and on. I figured if I was interested in this stuff others probably are as well.

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I figured I’d start with the info on all the packets I’ve gotten from Joseph Lofthouse

Yellow Beets: plant about the time that apple trees are flowering
Tobacco: start indoors similar to tomatoes, transplant into garden after danger of frost
Hull-less Oats: plant in spring
Swiss Chard: plant while apple trees are flowering
Barley: plant in early sprint
Harmony Grain Corn: plant when apple trees are flowering
Maxima Winter Squah: plant after danger of frost has past
Clary Sage (chia): natural planting time is late summer
Cache Valley Rye: can be grown without irrigation if fall planted, may be planted in early spring if irrigated
Turnip: does wonderful when planted in late summer
Crookneck: plant after danger of frost has past
Dry bush beans: plant after danger of frost has past
Breadseed poppy: scatter seed lightly in fall or very early spring
Astronomy Sweet Corn: Reliable germination in cold spring soil (does that mean we plant this early or late spring?)
Muskmelon: Plant after danger of frost has passed
Yellow Mustard Spice: plant in very early sprint
Winter Hardy Kale: I recommend planting in the fall
Lofthouse Wheat: Best planted in late fall, can also be planted in very early spring

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Ooh! Lofthouse wheat is a winter crop? I can always use more winter crops in my garden!

Great list, thank you.
I have two questions:

  1. When you say “plant”, do you actually mean “sow seeds” unless specified otherwise?
  2. Where can I get any hulless grain - oats, barley, wheat or rye, if they exist?

Ideally, when to plant outside, with a note if it is normally started inside and when you’d do that. Joseph Lofthouse is working on a couple of different hulless grains. If you’re here in the states I could get you some of them if you promise to return some seeds. I have barley and oats that I won’t be planting this year

Okay, thanks for the info. Comparing that to my local conditions, we sow directly winter squash for instance, when the risk of last frost passes, that is end of May. For melons though, we start them inside, then transplant.
Unfortunately I’m in Europe, I will look for them here. A couple years ago I had some from Ireland (oats) but I was not successful in growing them, that’s why I asked.

I planted my first favas the other day and I’ve been noticing just how intense microclimating is here. South sunny slopes are thawed and even growing/sprouting, but there are frozen arcs under the soil from anything that casts a shadow, and there’s still snow on the north side of my house (it’ll be there till June). A pile of straw or a tarp will have a foot of snow under it, right next to a thawed patch of soil.

For favas and ideally barley and swiss chard I want to plant basically as soon as I can stick an implement into the soil, so, once it’s thawed and if it’s a muddy spot as soon as it’s dried out enough. This means I can’t till before planting those seeds (I leave my garden intact over the winter and snow for insect shelter.

Then I have a set of things that go in after I can till. This is so variable year to year; this year is very dry so I can almost till now, but the ground is still frozen in any ghost of shade.

Traditionally here folks plant their warm weather plants after the full moon closest to the mother’s day weekend.

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Microclimate conditions play a huge role, and one that is quite often overlooked. My gardens are both on slight slopes, one straight south and the other north/east. Although they are only a couple hundred feet apart the differences are quite pronounced, especially in summer when the south facing one fries in the sun and the other, not so much.

My creek valley is maybe five hundred feet away horizontally but 400 feet lower in elevation and very dramatically different there than up here. I don’t garden down there except for things like apples and grapes. Frost free season down there is probably a month shorter than on the ridge top. Also lacking the breezes like on the ridge, it gets terribly hot down there in mid-summer.


Yes, and once we get bigger than a couple hundred feet as you say, it can be huge. Town - 10km away - is probably a full month longer season than I have, and a full climate zone warmer. There’s a reason the Nak’azdli built their homes there originally!

that’s why I especially love Joseph’s comments. He puts it in relation to what’s happening around you instead of dates. Things like “when the apple flowers bloom” are on a lot of his packets.

My plot where the house is, is 35 by 35 meters, this is where my kitchen garden is located. Garden beds take a small part of it, some here, some there. In this area, temperature at sunrise can exceed ten degrees Celsius, and in some places snow stays one month longer than elsewhere. So definitely microclimates are very important even on a backyard gardening scale.


It changes yearly for me. Some years it’s 80 in Feb, past 3 years have been much cooler so I wait longer. In my climate a few weeks doesn’t make much difference usually. I’ll add that I love landraces because they allow me to plant on my schedule and THEY have to adapt.

I’m noticing pussywillow buds now, especially because I’m playing with basketmaking and the willow needs to be harvested before the buds swell. This year it seems correlated with the hard freeze seeming out of the ground./fava planting. I’m interested to see if this continues to be true.

My fava beans have started flowering now, hurray! I planted them outside in January. They’ve been growing very slowly.

My kohlrabis are starting to flower, too!

My neigbor’s apricot tree flowered a month ago, and the flowers have now all shriveled up and are starting to look pregnant.

My peach tree flowered two weeks ago, and the flowers are now on their last days.

One of my apple trees has buds on it now. The other apple tree, which is in a shadier spot and is younger, has leaf buds.

None of my fig trees have leaf buds on them. They may be dead.

The Siberian elm trees started budding out leaves around the same time as the apple trees, which was a month ago.

The weather has been scorchingly hot from noon until evening for the past week.

I planted my oca slips yesterday and my sweet potato slips today.

Figs, like oaks, are very late to leaf. There’s still hope!

Oh, good! I’m very happy to hear that!

I just got my fig trees last year, so this is my first spring with them. They’re supposed to be hardy to my zone, but only just barely, and we got one night that was 5 degrees colder than any night in the past 20 years, so . . . I really hope they’ll live!

Oh! More ecosigns! My gooseberry bush and raspberry bushes started leafing out about a month ago. Both are now covered in leaves and look happy. My blueberry bushes just started leafing out a few days ago.

My yacon doesn’t have leaves poking up through the mulch yet, but my Joseph Lofthouse Jerusalem artichokes do. Interestingly, my Beaver Valley Purple Jerusalem artichokes don’t! I’m guessing Joseph’s are earlier, and/or perhaps more cold hardy, than normal.

My ribes were the first to budbreak this year. Actually they were the first green anywhere. Was that true for you too?

You mean, with perennials? I think my gooseberry started to make leaf buds at the same time as my hardy kiwis. And yes, now that you mention it, I think they were both first by a few weeks. I remember being stoked to see them making leaf buds! I was like, “Yay, they lived!” (They’re tiny. I just put them in last fall.)

We’ve had green all winter long. Our grass is green and lush in winter. Whenever the snow melts, there it is, a thick carpet of verdance. It’s in summer that our grass looks dead as a doornail. :wink:

My garlic, brassicas, fava beans, and peas have been green all winter long, too.