“Days to Maturity” is a common term that is found on seed packages and when describing various plant cultivars. While it is great to have a solid figure to estimate how long things will take to grow in your garden, there are a few things to make note of.
The first issue is that the “Days to Maturity” figure is an estimate for a crop with proper nutrient requirements, in good soil, and in a full sun. Your results will vary if you are growing in a partial sun area, if your soil provides unusual challenges, and if the weather throws a few curveballs during the growing season. We find that if you don’t get a minimum of 6-8 hours of sun per day, you should add on at least an extra 10% to the time listed for your crops to reach maturity.
In addition, plants growing in the shoulder seasons or under protection will take longer than the listed days. For example, if carrots and beets are direct seeded in September, we would factor in an extra 15-20% for them to grow and reach maturity due to the shorter hours of daylight, the cooling temperatures (especially at night when most plants are converting stored sunlight energy into plant growth), and if they are under protection like row covers or hoop tunnels that work to block some of the sunlight from getting to the plant.
In terms of maturity, this generally means when the crops are ready to set fruit and flower. Beans, once they reach maturity, will continue to flower and produce beans assuming they are properly cared for during the season and until the frost kills them off.
Days to maturity can also be tricky to interpret for fruiting plants like tomatoes and peppers. If you are buying your plants from a nursery or garden center, the “days to maturity” listed on the plant tag often indicates how long it will take AFTER being transplanted in the ground. If you are starting your own seeds indoors to be transplanted out in the spring, you need to factor indoor/protected growing time before the plants are ready to harvest.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that days to maturity is an estimate and your results will vary, based on sun conditions, weather/climate, soil conditions, pests/diseases, mislabeling of plants, etc.
Need help in planning your garden and understanding how to select the right crops based on their days to maturity? Contact us for help with your garden