This winter weather has gardeners itching to get into the dirt and start digging. However, for those who need a few tips on when they can safely start planting their veggies for spring and summer, there may be a little hesitation. Let’s toss that hesitation out the window with a few simple pointers and help build the excitement to get started!
With weather changes that we have experienced the last few years, even some seasoned gardeners find themselves wondering the same thing this time of year, “When should I start my garden?” Usually, this question comes to mind when the winter weather is cold, wet, and gray.
Most of us know from experience that it’s still too early, but the urge to start getting those garden goodies definitely has its grip on us. Our souls ache for that warmth, sun, and green sprouts poking up through the dirt. Planting too early is a waste of time and money, so this is the time that we need to take to start preparing ourselves for the planting season to come.
When to Start Planting
Knowing the right time to start planting is completely dependent on knowing your own area. It is important to research when your area will experience the last expected frost date, which is a huge variable when you are looking for advice on when to start your garden.
The last expected frost date is a probability-based estimate that is determined by historical data, so it’s pretty much just the best guess and not always completely accurate, so watch your local weather carefully. Just because it is the last estimated frost date does not mean you will not experience a frost after that date.
Check Your Seed Packets
Every plant has its own quirks so it is important to check your seed packets for more information about each plant. A great example of this is peas. They are so easy to grow and delicious raw and cooked. Peas should be started 4 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost date because they require that frost to grow successfully so 4 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost is the earliest peas should be planted. This is the same approximate date that radishes and carrots can be planted as well.
Other plants, such as peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and squash should be planted when there is no longer the danger of a frost happening because a frost can damage the seeds. Because of this, the information on the back of your seed packet can be your best friend when determining when to plant each item in your garden.
Shorter Growing Seasons
Gardeners with a shorter growing season, which is typically gardeners in the north, may have to plant their spring and summer plants closer together to ensure that summer crops have plenty of time to grow and mature. Most spring plants are leaves and roots, while summer plants are typically fruits. Since fruits take longer to develop to their edible stage, you will want to plant them midway through the spring season.
Preparing the Ground for Planting Summer Crops Early
Gardeners with a shorter growing season should take time to prepare the ground for the early planting of their summer vegetables. To do this, you should utilize row cover cloth to protect your summer plants during the stray cold, or cooler nights because they could cause a significant amount of damage to your plants. Not only can it protect your plants during the early stages of growth, but it can also protect them as the growing season comes to a close and the nights get cooler.
What About Seed Starter Kits
Seed starter kits are a great option for beginners who are learning about their last spring frost, but even in seed starting kits, it is important to estimate the start date as close as possible. At some point, your plants will need to be transplanted and if you started them too early, the leaves could be damaged by cooler weather.
Learn your Planting Zone
A planting zone is an area you can find on a map growing zone map. These outline what plants are most likely to thrive in your area and can help you determine what plants to put in your garden each year. There are 13 different hardiness zones by the USDA, the map can be found online and on the back of your seed packets. There is an approximate 10-degree temperature difference between zones and the planting recommendations correspond with the estimated last spring frost.
The USDA planting zones allow you to develop an understanding of the zone you live in so you can focus your time, attention, and money on plants that have the best chance of surviving the weather patterns in your area.
While learning about your zone may sound intimidating, once you take the time to understand the basics of your area, you will feel less intimidated by your planting season. You will also be less confused by a lot of information you find during your research of different popular plants.