It’s Time – 2016 Seed Starting

Zukeeni, I beg to differ –


It’s February in northern Illinois; it’s time to start more than green onions. But let me back up a minute, because you must be wondering – what the hell is Zukeeni? It’s a pretty awesome free online garden planner. It used to be called Smart Gardener, and why they changed it is anyone’s guess. I actually prefer the original name, but it’s got the same great functionality as the original, so that’s what counts.

Some of the great points about the program –

  • Choose the plants you want in your garden, and keep track of when to plant, water and harvest.
  • Keep a journal with your gardening notes.
  • Network with your neighbors and communicate with other gardeners on the forum.
  • Plan your garden layout and design with a visual plan.

Here’s what my dashboard looks like –


And here’s the garden layout I’ve got planned for this year –


Overall I really like it, but as I said – it’s just wrong about February. If you want tomatoes and peppers during the actual summertime in the upper Midwest, you ignore all conventional gardening advice to start them six weeks before the last frost and start them a full month earlier instead, by around Valentine’s Day.

Now, I’m not going to lie – they take a little extra work. You’ve got to make sure you’re using a grow light to get them proper light exposure, as well as watch like a hawk for things like powdery mildew (a fan on the low setting blowing over the plants occasionally can actually help combat it) and spider mites, and you’re probably going to have to pot them up a time or two so they don’t get root bound. But the extra attention and care are well worth the effort when you’re enjoying fresh from the vine tomatoes in July, instead of impatiently waiting until September.