Seed Math (Planning for Peppers)

I don’t feel like I spend a lot of time during the regular gardening season doing any kind of counting or math. But getting your garden started definitely requires a little calculation. I’ve been starting seeds this week, and to do that, you have to answer two main questions: when to start seeds, and how many to start. In both cases, it’s a bit of a gamble, and I tend to play it pretty conservatively.

Figuring Out When to Start Seeds
I started thinking about the “when” of seed starting about a month ago. To do that, you have to figure out when you want to plant everything outside, and then count backwards to figure out the best time to start seeds.

In previous years I’ve done this on paper, but this year I’ve been using this  online calculator: http://awaytogarden.com/when-to-start-seeds-calculator/. To use it you just follow the links to find your last spring frost date and then plug it into the calculator.

When you look up your average last frost date, you’ll usually find a whole range of recommendations to choose from. That’s because average last frost dates are just that: averages. I tend to plant toward the later, safer end of the recommendations. For me, that date is April 15.

Deciding on How Many to Plant
So you can plant a lot of seeds, but the odds are that they’re not all going to germinate. You’ll probably also lose a few plants along the way, especially during transplanting. Without dwelling on all my past mistakes, let’s just say that I like to plant a lot of extras.

I also like to keep the math simple, and those little plastic seed cells come in packs of 6, so I do everything in groups of 6. Here’s my plan for starting pepper seeds today. (I did exactly the same thing with tomatoes yesterday.)

• I’m starting seeds from 6 types of peppers.
• I will plant 3 cells for each kind. Actually, I will put 2 seeds in each cell, hoping one will germinate. If both do, you just pluck out the extra seedling.
• If all goes well, that will give me 18 pepper plants. I really only want 12 for the garden so if I have extras I’ll give them away.

Last year everything went well and I had a lot of plants to share. Fingers crossed for this year.