When Can You Begin Planting?

Photographer: Simon Howden, www.freedigitalphotos.net

Once the weather begins showing signs of warming up, those of us who find great joy in planting flowers and growing gardens get the itch to begin. At first it is minor and you know the weather is not going to cooperate so you are able to control the urge. Then the daffodils and tulips start popping up out of the ground and the urge becomes uncontrollable. With frost and snow still in the forecast you don’t dare make a trip to Lowes, Home Depot, or your favorite nursery, because there is no way you will be able to leave without a load of plants that will need to be replaced if planted too early.

The spring sun and tease of a warm day continues to beckon our names, calling, practically screaming “PLANT, PLANT, PLANT!!!” Then a week arrives when the weather is a bit warmer and you begin to forget that  it snowed just the other day. It doesn’t help that every store you walk into is beginning to stock up on flowers for your flower beds and seedlings to start your garden.

Do not take the bait no matter how tempting it may be, unless you have a greenhouse or plan on keeping your plants indoor until the warm weather is here to stay. If you do fall prey to the temptation it may make you feel better for a day or two but then it will turn cold again and you will be frantically trying to protect your joy from the freezing temperatures and more than likely replacing most, if not all, of your plants.

One day I will have the greatly coveted greenhouse. However, until then I am going to have to wait and practice the virtue of patience. Although patience can be something that is challenging to me at times, I am able to control my urges for planting as long as I have a clear plan and I can see the green light for planting in the near future. For me, creating and knowing that plan is the key.

With mother nature in complete control and obviously not Punxatawny Phil, who I thought was bringing me an early spring, how do you know when you can begin planting? How do I make a plan that will help me keep my planting urges in check?

Am I supposed to go out and purchase a Farmers Almanac which is something my grandparents always lived by and to this day my grandmother swears by its accuracy? Maybe I should, though with the wealth of knowledge available on the Internet today, I should be able to access a more accurate table and guide for planting. Then again, maybe not. Maybe I should put that one to a test…can you say future blog? 🙂

First things first, before you can know when you can begin planting you need to familiarize yourself with the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones. These zones help you determine if the plants you are wanting to plant can survive in your climate and how soon you can plant them. These zones are often used on the labels of plants. Although you may know what your average low temperature is, not all plant labels use a temperature as many use a hardy zones. Without having knowledge of the Plant Hardiness Zones, specifically the area in which you are zoned, you may have a more difficult time determining if you can plant that specific plant. So get familiar before you go shopping and you will be thankful you did.

The next major rule of thumb is not to plant your garden prior to the last frost. How are you supposed to plan for that? You can’t be sure because only Mother Nature knows for sure when the last freeze will be. However, what you can do is begin planting frost-hardy vegetables. These are plants that are often harvested before other vegetables and include leafy vegetables, beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes, onions, peas, broccoli and cauliflower. Frost-hardy vegetables are a great way to get started with your garden when you know the cold weather has not completely gone. Again, check the label for hardy zones and plant according to your climate.

Hopefully by planting the frost-hardy vegetables you will feel a bit of relief from the great urge you are having for spring planting because the next group of vegetables and flowers can only be planted once the last freeze has taken place. If you just cannot wait and you have already cleaned out your flower beds and garden from the long winter, then start your seedlings and potted plants in your garage or another area that does not get below 40 degrees. Although this is not nearly as satisfying as planting your garden, it may give you a little satisfaction and it will probably be more fun than the continued preparing of flower beds and the gardens.

Once that final freeze has past, the door is wide open for you to begin planting your warm-season crops. These include tomatoes, squash, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and beans. Pay close attention to the weather, although it may have turned nice and  you are convinced there will not be another frost, you may just be wrong–Mother Nature has a terrible sense of humor at times. If another frost is in the forecast and you have already planted your warm-season crops, don’t panic, do your best to protect them. You can always take old sheets outside and carefully cover your plants. While this is not the perfect and you may see a little loss or slowness to your plants growth, it may be the only way to save your plants.

Lastly, knowing that you will be sick and tired of winter and desperate for signs of spring, plan ahead. This September, before the first freeze make sure you get all of your spring bulbs planted and in the ground. Clean out the weeds in your flower beds and think about all of the areas you will want to see tulips and daffodils popping up. Planting bulbs in the fall will bring you much joy in the spring.

For me spring always toys with my emotions and continues to teach me patience. Currently I am dying to plant flowers and start my garden but I know that I will be sorry if I do. So instead I just wait and do my best to enjoy the tulips and daffodils. I have not spent much time in the past growing frost-hardy vegetables as I generally prefer warmer-weather crops. However, I worked out in the yard these past couple of days preparing my garden and flower beds for the joy they will be bringing me soon, I noticed that my neighbor is growing many leafy greens and a few other frost-hardy vegetables. So I suppose if I just cannot wait until the frost is gone, I can always plant some spinach or something else that will fill the void until the weather warms.

I always enjoy learning great tips on gardening so please feel free to share your wisdom. Any suggestions you have on growing a garden, planting early, or being patient are welcome.


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