Monday, April 26, 2010

Laura's Spring Fever | Your Kitchen Gardener

Around the end of February, all gardeners suffer from a common ailment...Spring Fever. You may find them poking at the ground protected from the elements in their parkas, or raking back the mulch to see if their daffodils have started to come up through the once-frozen ground. But when is the right time to plant?
The beginning of Spring usually signals the beginning of the growing season for most gardeners. However, it is important to plant at the right time of the year, and that isn’t always Spring. Depending upon where you live, planting times for your garden can differ by as much as one to two months. In parts of the South, planting can sometimes begin as early as late February, but in the North may not be able to begin until April.
Certain plants also require that you plant them at certain times of the year. Many vegetable seeds can be planted in the Spring as well as many flower varieties. Flowering bulbs can be planted in late Fall as well as early Spring.
Trees and shrubs can generally be planted in the Fall, before it gets too cold; no later than October. Planting during the Summer is generally not recommended in many parts of the country due to the extreme heat. Your plants will not have time to establish themselves and excess care may be required to keep them from languishing.
The last practical planting date for most crops is August 1. This may seem like a late start, but if you desire a late Fall harvest, this might be the right time for you. Vegetables such as carrots, beans, and turnips can be planted this late. Other vegetables take longer to mature. Squash, cucumber, and melons all require a longer growing season and usually need to be planted no later then the end of June.
Plant hardiness zones are also important to take into consideration when planting your garden. The plant hardiness zones were developed by the USDA to aid gardeners and farmers. Some plant varieties do not survive in the extreme zones. The zones are numbered 1 through 11 and are directly correlated to the average minimum temperatures in the various zones. Extreme South Florida falls into Zone 10, while Maine and the Northeastern United States fall primarily into Zones 3 and 4. One great example is rhubarb. Rhubarb requires a cold winter to produce properly and its growth is stunted by temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Planting rhubarb in Miami does not make sense.
Many gardeners also rely on time-honored traditions that tell them when to plant. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is one such source for time-honored growing and planting tips. Some gardeners even use superstition as a basis for planting times, such as planting with the phases of the moon and that certain vegetables will cross pollinate and therefore should be planted separate from each other and at different times.
For the best results in your garden, make sure you know what plants will survive in the zone in which you live and when is the latest you can plant them to ensure a bountiful harvest.

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