I'm not a planner. I rarely do anything ahead of time. I usually wait until the last minute then get really stressed out about just finishing something in the nick of time. So I'm even surprising myself in saying that I think I actually started the whole gardening thing too early this year. In years past, I've always had trouble finding the supplies I need in stores because I waited to long. Not just with gardening either. With Halloween, for example, I always wait until the last minute to buy the costumes, then my poor kids are stuck with the dorkiest leftover Disney characters. (Yeah, I know I should be creative and make some cool costumes.)
Last year, I didn't really get the gardening bug until it was pretty well into the summer. Looking back at my garden journal, I planted my first 4x4 foot square on June 25th and the second a day later. It actually worked out pretty well considering and made me want to do more this year. So, on the first day in March (March 14th to be precise) that the sun came out and the temperature climbed above 40, I was ready to go. Inside, I planted 160 seedlings in those little expandable pellet thingies. Even at the time, that seemed a little crazy, since I already knew I was only going to have 64 square feet, but the seeds and their little dirt homes were so little then, and it had been a really long, cold winter.
Everything sprouted and did really well. I even had to replant 4 weeks or so after, and of course, I found it hard to just throw away the results of thinning the plants, so I planted those, too and ended up with even more seedlings. Mel from Square Foot Gardening says you really only need to plant one seed for each plant you want. Makes sense, but I guess I just don't have enough faith that they'll all sprout. It's probably better Mel's way, since you don't end up disturbing the roots when you yank out the keeper plants little friends. Maybe next year, I'll have more faith. I guess that's Lesson Learned #2.
I also didn't transplant everything into bigger pots. I wanted to see how they would do both ways (and was also getting a bit lazy after transplanting about 80 plants). I'd say it was about the same either way - at least at first. The basil that I planted in bigger pots seemed to do worse. It didn't look bad or anything. It just didn't seem to be growing very fast while the basil plants in their little pellet things (I'll have to figure out what those are called) were shooting up and getting new leaves. (That's one of them there on the left - happily in the garden now.) The tomatoes didn't really seem to care at first. If anything, the ones in the pellets grew more, but then since I planted so early, those started to fall over and grow sideways. Now that they're in the garden it's probably not a big deal because I know some people recommend planting them sideways anyway so that the bottom part of the stem can become the root. At the time though, it was worrying me. (That's one of my Italian Heirloom seedling there on the right.)
Needless to say, I was anxious to get these straggly, falling over things into the garden, so I planted everything on May 10th and 11th. A friend of mine had said that she read in the Farmer's Almanac that the danger of frost would be past after the first full moon in May. That sounded reasonable to me. Although when I think about it, is that true for everywhere? Because it really doesn't make sense that you'd plant at the same time in Florida as you would in Maine. Anyway, the last full moon was on May 8th, and I liked that date because, like I said, I was anxious to plant.
It got really cold here two nights ago and frosted in some places. That was of course after I had planted all my seedlings outside. I got really lucky, and I think they're going to be fine, but my lesson learned is that next year, I should wait to plant until May 20th or so. (Then again I could be rewarded big time by having the first tomatoes, basil, etc. We'll see.) And the second part of that lesson learned is to calculate a reasonable number of weeks backward to start seedlings inside and force myself to wait until then.
I don't know if any of you readers will benefit from this long-winded lesson learned, but I read a while ago that you can "slurp" (I think that was the word) a blog into a Blurb book. Blurb is my favorite site for creating photo books. I've done a couple, and I just love the way they come out. So I love the idea of "slurping" all this into a Blurb book for myself - sort of a high(er) tech gardening journal.