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The humble home garden is no longer just a place for a lawn and ornamental flowers. It has gone on to include vegetable gardens, herb gardens, seasonal fruits, and a lot more.
However, to be able to have a sustainable and flourishing garden, it is important to know when to plant things in your garden. We’ve compiled a whole host of pro tips for those of you who are interested in learning when is the best time to plant a garden using one of the handiest guides a gardener can have: a planting calendar.
An introduction to planting calendars
A planting calendar is a simple guide to help the novice gardener know when is the right time to plant any type of vegetable, plant, or flower. This is done by breaking up geographical locations into hardiness zones according to frost dates.
A hardiness zone, as decided by the US Department of Agriculture, is a geographic area having a certain minimum temperature. These zones come from 0-11 and come with the purpose of helping gardeners know the best time to plant their gardens.
A planting calendar will tell you the best time to plant which flowers, plants, and vegetables are in a particular zone for you to have a thriving garden, including how much water plants need and the best time to harvest your produce.
The importance of frost dates
Simply frost, a frost date signifies the range of days, from the first to the last, when a particular zone usually experiences frost.
It is important for the home gardener to be aware of frost dates because some plants are incapable of surviving the biting cold of frost. Keeping these dates as an indicator of when to begin planting your garden will ensure you have a bountiful harvest.
Timing is everything
A common mistake that a lot of eager gardeners make is to start working with the soil very early. While planning your garden planting dates ought to start much before spring, you will need to wait at least until the soil has thawed out and is partially dry. Otherwise, the soil in your garden is likely to be clumpy and difficult to work with.
Once the soil has the correct texture and amount of moisture in it, you ought to start planning what to plant. Most plants need a soil temperature of between 65 and 75 degrees, while some varieties can handle lower temperatures. Checking the soil temperature early in the morning with a thermometer is a good idea.
However, that does not mean all plants grow well if planted at the same time. In a lot of cases, seed packets mention the ideal soil temperature for plants on them. Your local garden store should also be able to guide you with the best time of the year to start planting different things.
The best time of the year to plant vegetables and herbs
Some vegetables are hardier than others and can be planted during early spring, as early as March. These vegetables include radishes, spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, peas, and broccoli.
However, others, like tomatoes, peppers, and corn will not go into the ground until the outdoor temperatures are consistently above 60 degrees, which is in the months of May or June.
Of course, it isn’t always necessary to sow seeds outdoors only. You could always start seeds indoors in pots and then transplant the seedlings outdoors when the temperature is ideal.
Herbs tend to grow well irrespective of whether you seed them outdoors or seed indoors. In fact, if you buy young starter plants, they can be planted directly into the soil. Chives and other herbs can be planted outdoors as early as four weeks before the last frost and will still grow well.
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The best time of the year to plant flowers
This once again requires you to be aware of the frost dates in your growing zone. As in the case of vegetables, you can begin planting seeds of hardy flower species such as pansies and alyssum as soon as spring sets in, since they can tolerate a certain amount of frost.
Other flowers are more tender and need warm soil to be able to thrive. Examples of such flowers include nasturtium and dahlias.
What this basically means is irrespective of whether it is fruits, vegetables, herbs, or flowers, the ideal planting time differs depending on the type of plant and the frost dates in your hardiness zone.
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The best way to plant a garden
- Begin to till the soil and add organic compost and manure to it during the late summer and early fall. This way, during the cold winter months, these materials have sufficient time to break down and gradually release essential nutrients into the soil. Your garden will be rich in nutrients by the time it is growing season.
- Always make sure you harden seedlings before planting them into the seeding, especially if you bought them from the garden center. This involves gradually exposing them to a few hours of sunlight every day for between 7 to 14 days before they go into the soil.
- Remember to plant hardy, cool climate plants first. Be sure to check which varieties thrive in your local climate with like-minded gardeners and the local gardening store.
- Never plant seedlings too close to each other. While they may be tiny now, they will grow before you know it, and none of them will reach their full potential if they don’t get enough space, sunlight, and nutrition.
- Be on the lookout for unexpected frost. Remember to invest in frost covers to protect your seedlings in case that does happen.
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