I just got a question from reader, Emily, about how to read the days to maturity number on vegetable starts. I decided to answer both her question and throw in a bit about starting from seeds, just in case you’ve ever wondered.
“Quick question you might know the answer to: are the “days to maturity” on the tags for vegetable starts counting from the day I buy the plant or the day it’s seed was planted?”
On starts that you buy at your local nursery, there is some contention about when to start the days to maturity count. The most widely accepted answer is to start the count the day you plant it in the ground. So, if it says 60 days to maturity, count forward 60 days from planting, and that is a rough estimate of when you can expect to have a harvest. The same goes for any transplants you started from seeds indoors.
If you direct sow seeds into your garden, start the days to maturity count when the first true set of leaves emerge. The reason for the difference is that all plants go through a little bit of a transition process when you transplant them. It takes them a minute to acclimate to your soil, etc. and slows down the maturity process for a bit. Directly sowed seeds will not have that issue.
In pretty much all the cases, remember that the days to maturity are just a guideline–it doesn’t mean you go out and pick the cantaloupe on the 110th day exactly. It really just helps you choose the appropriate plant for you climate–if you know you only have a 3 month growing season, you will want to stick to plants with around a 90 days to maturity tag.
I hope that helps!