May 8, 2014

How To Garden: Seasonal Planting and Zones

I hope you have dirt under your fingernails and seeds in the ground! And that you’re enjoying all the awesomeness of gardening. To catch up, click on the links below:

Monday: Choosing the Right Style of Garden for You -and- Mixing Your Soil
Tuesday: Companion Planting -and- Pollination
Wednesday: Pest -and- Animal Control

SEvilsizer Vintage Week

Today it’s all about Seasonal Planting and Your Zone!

When you think of planting a garden, what season comes to mind? If you said summer, you’re not alone! I used to think that I was limited to gardening May -August too. But we’re not!

Veggies are grouped seasonally, so you have warm weather (a.k.a. spring/summer) and cool weather (a.k.a. autumn/winter) crops. Neat, huh?

So what’s the difference? 

SPRING/SUMMER VEGETABLES
When do you plant them? Every vegetable has a different germination period that will be noted on the back of a seed packet or can be found through an online search. You can start your plants from seed indoors several weeks to several months prior to the last frost of the season. After they have bloomed and are growing, you’ll want to transfer them to a bigger pot before moving them outdoors. Make sure you ‘harden’ them up by setting the seedlings outside for increasing lengths of time until they are ready to go in the ground. Once any risk of frost is past, you are free to plant seedlings in the ground. In case of a surprise frost, cover your crops at night with hardware cloth or an old bed sheet.

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Keep in mind that many factors affect when the best time for YOU to plant is: climate, altitude, seasonal temperatures. I live in the south, so my growing season runs from late March – early November {sometimes later with a mild winter}. However, those in the northeast generally grow from May-September. Here is a great resource for you to plug in your zip code and find specific growing dates per vegetable for your area from All Things Plants.

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A useful frost map

What are summer vegetables? Most summer veggies are almost always grown for their fruit (Think: tomatoes & cucumbers). They include, but aren’t limited to-

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Cucumber
  • Tomato
  • Zucchini and Yellow Squashes
  • Peppers
  • Okra
  • Sweet Potato
  • Herbs
  • Watermelon
  • And more!

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How much sunlight do they need and what kind of temps?
Ideally your seeds need to germinate & grow in temperatures over 70 degrees with 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. Each vegetable has varying needs for sunlight and shade, so be sure to read up on your crops before planting.

How much water do they need? If you start your crops by seed, water consistently with no more than 1 inch per week. Once your seeds sprout, continue consistent watering from the base down. Summer plants enjoy drinking long and deep at their roots. Avoid watering the leaves as many diseases grow in wet conditions. If you do water the leaves, do so in the morning so the water evaporates before nightfall and cooler temperatures.

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Side Note: Inconsistent watering can cause damage to your crops, especially when the temperatures are very high. One thing you might see when watering is not done at regular intervals in the same amount are cracks on tomatoes. The epidermis (skin) on the tomato can’t stretch fast enough to keep up with the excess fluid inside the flesh of the veggie. A common question is, Can I still eat cracked tomatoes? Absolutely! Just check to be sure there isn’t mold, fungus, worms or flies in it. Cut around the cracked part and enjoy!

BONUS: If you live in a warm weather area you can plant some of your crops twice if you plant your first rotation early enough, like green beans. Once one batch is done growing, pull it up by the roots and plant another round of seeds. You can do this with some fall crops too, like kale.

FALL VEGETABLES:
When do you plant them? Most fall vegetables can tolerate a light frost–some can even deal with a light snow–but just like summer vegetables, cover your crops with hardware cloth or a sheet overnight if it suddenly turns cold or you’r expecting a heavy frost.

As I mentioned above, every area around the world had different growing seasons. This will affect when you put your fall crop in the ground. Plug your zip code in this link for specialized information.

What are fall vegetables? There are a few different categories these fall under-

  • Salad vegetables: lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard
  • Kid Won’t Eat These Vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale
  • Root vegetables: carrots, beets, and parsnips
  • Leggy vegetables: celery and fennel
  • Flavorful vegetables:  garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, and chives

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How much sunlight do they need and what kind of temps? Ideally your seeds need to germinate & grow in temperatures between mid-60′s to l0w-70′s degrees with 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. Each vegetable has varying needs for sunlight and shade, so be sure to read up on your crops before planting.
How much water do they need? Water your fall harvest every day to keep the soil moist. This will protect them if a frost comes. These crops actually DO like water on their foliage, so feel free to water from the top down, making sure soil is wet.
Side Note: Fall crops have a tendency to ‘bolt’ if there is a spurt of warm weather, or inconsistent watering. This is when the vegetable sends a flower straight up. Once this happens, the plant pretty much should be allowed to go to seed (you can save these for next year!). Most plants will taste bitter once they bolt.
wp_000705                                                                                                                        Broccoli that bolted

HARDINESS ZONES:
The world is divided into different hardiness zones. Every area is mapped according to average annual minimum winter temperatures. They are divided into 10-degree Fahrenheit zones. This map helps gardeners determine when to plant. To use, simply locate where you live and compare the color on the map to the legend on the right-hand side. For example: northern Georgia is 7a and 7b. You can compare this to seed packets or online resources and use it to determine planting time.

That’s all for now folks! Please stay tuned for our last day tomorrow when we’ll talk about Pruning & Harvesting. You’ll be amazed at the results!

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xoxo,
Sam

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