Need help with calculating planting dates to save your precious transplants or seedlings from an unexpected frost? Wanna have a timeline for when to expect harvest of your produce? Knowing your growing zone will give you the foundation for a successful garden harvest.
In the next few points we will cover:
- why knowing your zone is important
- Where to find your zone information online
- Working with nature, not against it is essential for success
- My personal experience with learning to accept a new way of growing
Let’s get started!!!
Planting zone tip #1
Planting zones have been created to help gardeners know the range of optimal dates for growing a garden. Not every zone is created equal, so knowing where you land on the growing zone map will save you a ton of time, money on seedlings or transplants and frustration.
Each hardiness zone has a range of planting days that provide the temperature, sunlight and conditions needed to grow healthy, productive plants. The available days vary drastically, so you NEED to know your zone BEFORE you start.
Planting dates are important to keep in mind because frost (aka cold) is not something you want to be blind-sided by for spring or fall plantings. Zones have been assigned based on the average frost dates for a specific area.
Obviously northern states are known for harsh, long winters, whereas southern states are known for their mild winters and early springs, so knowing the dates of the season changes sets you up for success.
Most seed packets will have a range of days until harvest to inform growers of the necessary time to allow for plants to reach full maturity. Knowing how long a plant takes to grow, AND how long your season is, all need to be in sync. (there are a few ways to extend the season, but that is a post for another day…so check back soon!)
I know it sounds complicated and like you will be drawing charts and lists….or maybe now you are doubting you really want to dive into this madness. BUT! Believe me, it’s easier than it sounds.
For now, know there is some wiggle room to planting dates and a way to solve your gardening problems. Don’t be afraid to start the process and learn from trial and error.
Keep reading for where to find the information on your growing zone.
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Tip #2 to find planting zone maps
Every gardener knows there is a time to plant, and a time to tend, and most importantly, a time to harvest. (eek) Harvesting is after all why we even start the growing season!
But where do you find this magic formula?
Trust? Anywhere. Millions of books, articles, websites and people have created material to help. All the charts, lists and nifty apps out there to help guide you can be somewhat intimidating.
I go back to the same tried and true methods every spring. These are my suggestions, based on personal experience so there is room for you to explore what works for your learning style.
My top go to’s include:
- Farmer’s Almanac Website
- Local extension office
- Local hardware/nursery workers – they are the best to gleen this information from!!!
- United States Department of Agriculture has the USDA plant hardiness map that most home improvement stores use on their tags.
I get the almanac every year because I like having a physical book to hold while drinking my coffee or tea, planning the season’s garden. Best. Thing. Ever. I even have specific “gardening” mugs I use that have birds, seed packets, tools and cute clay pots.
Something really makes the planning process exciting when I get to flip through the magazine pages and find the average last frost date for my area so I know exactly when to get my seedlings/transplants outside.
So don’t be afraid to google, ask a local gardner or pick up an almanac during the check-out line. Sharing information when it comes to ANYTHING gardening is something gardeners LOVE to do! Don’t hold back or be shy, literally, it is such a compliment to have someone ask for advice.
Tip #3: work with what you’ve got
Working with what grows in your area is something I (after 10 years) am finally accepting. Should be a no brainer but for some reason I could not let go of my old style gardening when it came to my favorites. My family moved from Michigan down to Georgia and the gardening culture shock was intense! I couldn’t understand why my seeds for tomatoes and beans were not growing when I gave them (what I thought) was the perfect formula to grow. Turns out I was using the methods that worked in a zone completely different than my new zone, and my poor plants were suffering for my stubbornness to change tactics.
Despite my best efforts, every tomato would get to the stage of producing green tomatoes, but overnight start wilting. So began the slow and painful death of my time and plants. I have spent way too many hours convincing the suffering plants they were “fine”. Hours have been spent while researching possible causes for such a devastating crop loss. Trying just about all the tricks I could find left me pretty discouraged, to the point I stopped trying to raise my childhood ideal of a perfect tomato harvest in south Georgia.
It was not until I accepted the need to work WITH nature, not against, that I started seeing some small victories. Nature is something that you have to respect and take the time to understand the signs being given.
I know it sounds hippie, but hear me out.
Since gardening is usually done for a hobby most people are quick to quit when results are not achieved. (Guilty). Throwing in the towel after a hiccup is far easier, after all since we can just drive up to the local produce sections and get said veggies, right?
That one hit me in the feels. But if we can think of nature as giving us small signals that we have to train ourselves to see, we can unlock amazing results!
I struggle with subtle hints, which is funny because I am not a direct person at all. I am subtle in how I communicate, but not in how I hear others. So learning how to take the small hints that something is wrong or out of sorts, is something I have to practice.
Take it from me, work with nature, not against her, because nature will always win. So work with your zone’s strengths, and slowly add in the must haves that need extra love… like my tomatoes 🙂 Working with nature to grow what your zone has the sustainable traits will set you up for success. And who doesn’t want to grow the season’s best to share and sustain your household?