Yesterday I mentioned I selected seed based on days. Specifically I said, “I look for varieties that have short maturity times (that number in the description). The smaller the number the better in my opinion.”
How do you know what the maturity time is? What are those days listed in a seed catalog? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!
Let’s have a visual first.
So you open up a seed catalog and it says 35 days, 80 days, 150 days, 240 days. I know the newer gardener is saying, what does that mean. In a nutshell that number is “days from germination to harvest.” And now everyone is rushing out to purchase Anna Russian tomatoes because 69 days! Woo Hoo! Hold on a minute. It’s not that simple.
Sometimes it is that simple. Throw a radish seed in the ground in the Spring/Summer and once you see that little green sprout you can almost guarantee you’ll see a mature radish about 35 days later. They’re predictable those little radishes.
If a seed packet says to sow directly (meaning straight outside) the days on the packet (or in the catalog) will be from germination to harvest. If the plant is put outside as a transplant then days are from transplant to harvest.
Under perfect, ideal (for that plant) conditions the number is always from germination to harvest. In the case of a plant like a tomato the conditions are never ideal in a place like the Northwest. With a tomato you are forcing it to grow in a location that is so far from ideal you are lucky when you get ripe fruit (much like a watermelon).
This is why I go with something with a really short maturity time, considering the growing season in the Northwest is about 32 days. Ok fine. It’s about 200 days, but I stand by 32.
Now… if you are looking at seed packets or catalogs in the Summer for Fall planting you’ll start seeing carrots listed at 240 days. 240 days to grow a carrot?! Yep. When you see those kinds of number listed you are looking at an overwintering variety. You plant the seed in late Summer and you harvest it the following Spring.
What is right for your garden? Hard to say. Where do you live? If you are like me and live in the maritime Northwest then your growing season is very short. If you live in Southern California your growing season is considerably longer. Short growing season = small days to maturity number. Long growing season = larger days to maturity number.