Here in zone 6b–Lee County’s gardening zone (according to https://pdi.scinet.usda.gov/phzm/vm/VA300.jpg)–it is officially planting time. However, it can all be so confusing…plant hardiness zones, last frost dates, planting seeds or transplants… There are many things to try to understand. So where do we start? Hopefully this blog can answer a few of those questions and help you decide if you want to plant from seed or transplants.
First off, the plant hardiness zone tells us which plants are likely to grow well where we live based on the average minimum temperatures. In Lee County, Virginia, we just happen to fall in zone 6b. Here the average minimum temperature is between -5 degrees and 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Using our hardiness zone, we can also look up our predicted last frost date. This is the estimated last date that temperatures will fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for the Spring in our zone. According to https://www.almanac.com/gardening/planting-calendar/zipcode/24277, that date is somewhere around April 25th to May 5th, but it can vary depending on micro climates or factors such as climate change. If you decide to plant earlier, know you may have to cover and uncover your plants until the temperatures stabilize. Later planting has less chance of a killing frost, but some plants may be rushed to fully develop before the first frost date in the fall.
Seeds or Transplants
So, how do we know if we want seeds or transplants? First off, there is no one right or wrong answer. Some things can do fine planted as seed in the garden. Others may not do well unless they are transplanted. Then there are some that are okay either way. What we can do is follow a few general guidelines. First, if the plant has a taproot, it will probably not do well as a transplant. Things that germinate quickly do well started from seed. These items are things like peas, beans, corn, and radishes.
Some plants do not do well unless they have a head start. This can be because they mature over a long season and are racing the weather to produce before the cold hits. These are items like tomatoes and peppers. If you have transplants that you start yourself, of that have been protected from the weather, don’t forget to harden them off. This involves leaving them out a little each day at increasing intervals, until they have become acclimated to the outdoors. You want to avoid letting them dry out during this process. You also want to avoid direct sun at first and to keep the seedlings out of strong winds. Once the transplants are used to being outdoors, you can go ahead and plant them in your garden.
If you still aren’t sure, refer to the chard below to help you decide whether you want to plant seed directly or if you want to purchase transplants. Of course, this is not an all inclusive list, but it will give you a place to start.
Veggies to Transplant or Start in Trays
Veggies to Direct Seed
If you live in Virginia, there is a great publication from Virginia Tech you might want to check out. It can be found at https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/426/426-331/SPES-170.pdf. Good luck and happy gardening!