I’ve been seeing a lot of “countdown to spring” posts the past couple of days. Get past Christmas and gardening is really all we think about, isn’t it? But the gardening season in my climate starts weeks before spring. So I created my own countdown which you see below and also on the right sidebar.
This is a countdown to the average 20% chance of frost date in my area and it will update automatically. This date varies greatly across the country and this is really the date that matters most. Here on the Central Coast of California, the average last date that we have a 20% chance of frost is March 7th. So the day I can place a good portion of my seedlings in the ground with only a 20% chance of frost damage is after that date. You can build cold frames and hoop houses to get a jump on the season, but in a mild climate like this one, why make gardening harder than it has to be?
First you will need to find your average last frost date. This is the date most seed packages use to calculate when to start seeds. The date you start seeds indoors is counted backwards from this date. To find your date by zip code, you can use this handy calculator at Dave’s Garden. Once you enter your zip code, you may see dates for surrounding areas like I did.
Here you will need to either pick the area closest to you or the area most like your climate. In my case, both cities have very similar dates but if they were very different, I would have gone with San Luis Obispo because it is more inland than Pismo Beach and the climate is closest to what I experience. You will also notice that you have a choice of percentages. I personally hate using row covers so I go with a lower percentage to minimize the chance I might have to use them. This will then be the date that I can start setting out or direct sow seedlings that don’t necessarily need warm ground to thrive. Although we won’t get frost, it will be another month before the soil is actually warm and I will hold off planting or direct sowing things like cucumbers, melons, or pumpkins until the soil is good and warm.
Once you have decided on what date you want to use, you can go timeanddate.com to get your free online timer that you can then place on your blog. There are options to customize the color, text and size. Once you finish you can copy the code and place it on your blog. In WordPress, I can just copy and paste the text into the “text” field of the editor or a “text” widget to place it in the sidebar.
Now I have a seed starting reminder on my blog. It helps me get through the cold, dreary days that I know are yet to come and also serves as a motivator to get my garden season planned out which will be the subject of an upcoming post.