A vital, often overlooked, and misunderstood piece of information on a seed package is the days to maturity number. This piece of information is critical to the success of your season. Keep reading and I will explain why.
What Does “Days To Maturity” Mean?
Days to maturity tells you when you need to start a particular plant based on your growing zone ie. your unique climate and when your last & first frost dates are.
Days to maturity is the time frame from seed is sown to the time it will set fruit or flower. Typically only once a plant reaches maturity does it start to produce.
Watch the video or keep reading for step-by-step instruction on how to use days to maturity to maximize your harvest by choosing the best varieties for your garden.
Don’t Overlook It!
When your looking at the massive seed selection available to you and you see that number in the description or on the front of the seed packet, pay close attention. This is the first key piece of information that will tell you if this seed is going to be right for your garden.
4 Ways To Use This Information
1. Direct Sow or Seed Start Indoors
Depending on the length of your gardening season (last frost to first frost) you may not have enough time to direct sow the seed outside and have it produce before the season is done.
Cucumber Days To Maturity Example
I’ve got three different varieties of cucumbers with days to maturity ranging from 50-65 days. This means from the time I stick the seed in the ground until it starts to produce fruit, or produce the cucumbers, is 50 to 65 days.
Based on my growing zone (3b), I know that I have 115 days between my last frost & first frost. Actual good growing temperatures for cucumbers though I probably have around 90.
So for myself, choosing a fairly short “days to maturity” means that when it first starts producing fruit is going to be pretty early, and then I’ve got a lot of time to harvest from it over the remaining month and a bit of my season. 55 to 65 days is pretty short for maturity. It means that I can start these guys a little bit early indoors to get a jump on things, then have cucumbers all summer long.
Tomatoes Or Peppers Example
Both tomatoes and peppers can have 120 days to maturity. Factoring in my days to maturity from the example above, if I were to stick it in the ground outside the second last frost was done, it would only potentially JUST start producing for me right when I’m going to hit frost at the end of the season. I won’t get any fruit from that plant after a whole season of work. Who wants that?
When you see longer days to maturity that won’t fit into your season, it doesn’t mean that you can’t grow it. You’re going to need to start those seeds inside ahead of time OR buy them as starter plants.
Avoid Disappointment & Save Yourself Work
Many gardeners make this mistake.
I am one of them. I’ve made this mistake many, many times. I didn’t understand how important this was in the beginning of my gardening journey. I would pick the seed pack with the lovely colour on it because I thought it would look pretty in the garden. Instead it would not produce in time for me to get a good harvest, or sometimes any harvest at all.
It’s heartbreaking when that happens, and always left me feeling like I was a failure as a gardener because I couldn’t get this plant to produce. But in actual fact, it’s just that particular variety, it just needed longer than what my growing zone was able to provide for it.
Buying it ready to go from a greenhouse is a great way to save yourself some work and help you to quickly eliminate which seeds won’t work for you. This helps to beat the overwhelm at seed shopping time.
2. Successive Planting
Another really exciting thing about understanding days to maturity is you might be able to fit multiple plantings of something within one season.
Radish mature in sometimes 20 days, which is really short. That’s 20 days from the time you stick the seed in the ground until the time you could be harvesting and eating it.
This means you could plant radish, for example, three sometimes four times in the season successively. If you only have a small amount of space to dedicate to radish you can still get a pretty big harvest over the season.
Keep a log of when you planted each seed so you can harvest at the right time to plant a second or even a third round.
3. “Days To Maturity” Helps You Maximize Production
Building on our knowledge of how days to maturity works we can further dial in how much production you get.
You also get only one harvest per plant (like Radish). You may want to dedicate more space to this if you would like a large harvest. You can also stagger your plantings for a more spread out harvest.
VS a plant like cucumber where one single plant (once it reached maturity) will continually produce until the season is done.
Based on Kohlrabi days to maturity I know I could fit in 2 successive plantings to give me more harvest.
4. Continuous Blooms In Your Flower Garden
In your annual or perennial garden you can use the days to maturity to plan out which flowers you plant so that you always have something in bloom. You can get even more creative with this and use it to always have certain colours in bloom at different times to keep the pollinators present and happy.
Cut Flower Garden Example
Do you wish to have a garden you can cut flowers and create bouquets for yourself or for others? Days to maturity will help you to strategize your plan so you always have a nice bundle of flowers to offer.
As your knowledge and skills grow you can use days to maturity to not only ensure you get one harvest a season, but many.
Factors That Can Delay Days To Maturity
Each plant has a preference for its germination temperature, soil moisture, nutrients, PH and growing environment. If any of these is off is could affect:
- Growth rate will slow or perhaps even stunt the plant.
- Cool weather plants if subjected to too much heat will bolt and therefore not produce anything other than seeds.
- Too much moisture could cause fungal diseases which slow or stunt growth.
Be aware of the unique germination and growing environments your plants need and do your best to facilitate by planting them in an environment that matches it.
Happy plant shopping! Remember days to maturity applies whether you are buying the seeds OR the starter plant from a greenhouse.
Are you looking to dive deep into to buying the best seeds for your garden? There is a lot more to is than just understanding days to maturity. In my blog post Choose The Best Seed Variety For Success In YOUR Growing Zone & Garden (click this link to read it) you will learn how to really refine your seed hunt this spring.
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- Cold Season Growing
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- Seed Starting
- Tool Shed