How to Use a Burpee Seed Clock

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W. Atlee Burpee & Co., now known as Burpee Seed Co., was started in 1878 by W. Atlee Burpee as a mail order seed company in Pennsylvania. In the 1970s, Burpee sold the Burpee Planting Clock, also called the Burpee Seed Clock, now a vintage collectible. The clock has four settings: time of day, calendar date, moon phase and length of growing season. These settings all must be set with current information to be able to use the clock properly.

Things You'll Need

  • Burpee Planting Clock
  • Current calendar or almanac with moon phases
  • Last killing frost date in spring for your area
  • First killing frost date in fall for your area
  • Small screwdriver
  • C Battery

Unscrew the four screws from the back of the clock and remove the back. Install a “C” battery in the battery compartment and turn the switch to “Start.” Set the time on the clock to current time by rotating the set-wheel on the clock back to turn the clock’s hands.

Set the calendar date on the clock to the current date, making sure the current month and date line up at the marker at the bottom of the calendar wheel in the clock face. There is a saw-toothed wheel on the upper edge of the aluminum plate on the back of the clock--gently rotate it from right to left. It won’t turn the other way. This turns the calendar wheel on the front of the clock.

Look up current day’s moon phase. To set the moon dial, insert a sharpened pencil point carefully into the slot in the saw-toothed wheel to rotate the moon dial from left to right. Move the wheel gently to prevent the calendar setting from moving accidentally.

Look up the last killing frost in spring and the first killing frost in fall for your area in a calendar or almanac or get the information from your local county agricultural extension service. Set the length of the growing season with the two tabs under the bottom of the aluminum plate on the back of the clock. Move the tab with the green line so that the green line on the calendar on the front of the clock is set to the date of the last killing frost in spring in your area. Move the tab with the red line so that the red line on the calendar on the front of the clock is set to the date of the first killing frost in fall in your area. (You may want to add a week to the spring date and subtract a week from the fall date to account for changes in the weather to reduce risk to crops.)

Replace the back of the clock and secure with the four screws. The clock is now set and will run for a year on a fresh “C” battery. As the time turns the hands of the clock, the calendar will change accordingly, and planting instructions will appear according to the seasonal settings. When the little pot appears, it’s time to sow seeds indoors. When the two-leaved seedling appears, it’s time to set plants in the garden. When the long line with short lines on it appears, it’s time to sow seeds directly in the garden. The color coded lists of plants at the bottom of the clock will correspond with the colored bands in the calendar section, letting you know when to plant different plants.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep your Burpee Planting Clock with a garden journal and seed catalogs to avoid missing important garden planning tasks.
  • Call Burpee customer service and request instructions for operating your Burpee Planting Clock if you misplace them or acquire a clock without a manual.

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