TIme to plant? (Michigan)

I'll be trying out starting my own seeds indoors this year. I can usually plant outdoors about the last frost date (raised beds / sheltered location and so on) so when should the 'maters go in the potting soil?
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Anonymous said:

I don't start mine until April. Start them any sooner and they just get too tall and lanky -- despite my high intensity light -- and threaten to get root bound (in the biggest pots I can manage to use and still fit all my plants under the lights).
I wouldn't start them any earlier unless I was planning to set them out in tunnels or something of the sort. The go out when the expected night time lows are 50 degrees and I still have to cover them over at some point most years due to a late frost. (My garden is in the sunniest part of the yard, which is also a frost pocket.)
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snipped-for-privacy@someplace.net.net (Pat Kiewicz) wrote in message

I agree. right now is a good time to start lettuce for transplanting on April 1, and that's about it (one could consider other greens also). That way you use your growing shelves twice, with complete turnover April 1 - it is good organization too. Even in tunnels one year I lost them all (on May 22) because I tried to lay mulch right away. And even if you cover them against a late frost, tomatoes get shocked and stop growing when exposed to 35F. In fact, I can remember only one year out of the last five when I started tomatoes early and things went well.
Since the tunnel disaster I have grown 30+ seedlings and set them out in two waves, and there is no difference in productivity or earliness. This year I go the Pat way - second wave only. To beat the system you have to have a well insulated greenhouse. Even a good coldframe won't cut it. The tomatoes grow taller than a coldframe, and they also want bigger pots than my 2-3" ones, after six weeks, so they want a lot of horizontal and vertical space.
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Have you ever considered making a portable hoop house? I think we Michiganders can add a month or two to the growing season by putting in a small hoop house in early spring, removing it when it gets warm, and putting it back up when nights get cold again.

Ray in Cadillac, Michigan (just moved from about twenty miles south of Pontiac)
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Ray Drouillard said:

Unless you are around to open it on some of those exceptionally early hot days (or can rig it to open automatically) you are going to bake stuff in there. That's what happened with my wall-o-water experiment a number of years ago.
Most springs we have some *really* dramatic weather turns. My daughter (spring baby) was born on the day of an ice storm. One week later it was 80 degrees. And a couple of weeks after that, it snowed!
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Pat in Plymouth MI ('someplace.net' is comcast)

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snipped-for-privacy@someplace.net.net (Pat Kiewicz) wrote in message

Yes, one April, I think five years ago, the temperature swung 60F in 36 hours. Baking plants is an issue, and tall, young plants (such as tomatoes) are the least tolerant of cold and hot. Young cabbage seedlings are also sensitive. It is really difficult to cheat with tomatoes around here. You have to have a well-ventilated greenhouse with a decent thermal ballast.
At the other end of the spectrum, short plants (like lettuce or chicory) that have overwintered and are well established can take that kind of beating (under a hoophouse) without dying. Still, I tend to uncover them sooner rather than later (around March 20), and transplant the lettuce to its permanent location as soon as the forecast predicts two or three overcast days, with rain and above freezing temperatures. Having taken lots of cold units, they will be more adapted to a cold spell than a hot spell.
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On Fri, 13 Feb 2004 05:28:53 -0600, Pat Kiewicz wrote:

I prefer tall & lanky.
I plant all but the top growing tip in a post-hole and then cover with cloches made from plastic one gallon jugs. This gives me a great root system that leads to a very rapid recovery. In about 3 weeks, the top growth is as tall as if planted normally, but the root system is much deeper than it would have been because the stem will form roots all along its length.
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