What does Days to Maturity mean?
In horticulture, the phrase ‘days to maturity’ refers to the time a seed takes to germinate and grow to maturity. Days to maturity is a common phrase found on seed packets.
Most seed packets are sold with planting instructions clearly printed on the label. The instructions usually state the expected days to maturity so that the gardener has a general idea of how long it will take the seed to germinate, reach maturity, and be ready to harvest.
A gardener usually starts the days to maturity countdown on the day they plant the seed. Some gardeners do not start the count on seeds sown directly into the garden until the seedling emerges from the soil and sports its first set of leaves.
The days to maturity on a seed’s label is generally just a guideline and not an exact science. Many factors have bearing on how fast a seed germinates and grows.
Most gardeners use the days to maturity on a seed’s label to determine if they have enough growing time in their gardening zone before the first hard freeze or winter arrives. If the region only has three months of warm, summer-like weather, then a gardener will want to choose seeds that take 90 days or less to reach maturity.
However, if the region has four months before winter arrives, then a gardener can choose seeds that require only 110 days to maturity or less.
For seeds started indoors that will be later transplanted into the outdoor garden, the days to maturity is calculated beginning from the transplanting date.
The terms ‘days to maturity’ and ‘days to harvest’ are used interchangeably within the horticulture industry.