Planting Your Garden

by Amy Scheuerman

When to Start Planting

You’ve spent hours pouring over the seed catalog and lovingly choosing and ordering seeds for your favorite vegetables.  You’ve plotted out the sunny and shady spots in your garden plot.  You’ve even started a few transplants, which are now happily sprouting in a sunshine filled windowsill in your apartment.  But what next?

Before you start planting willy-nilly and have all your lovely beans and tomatoes freeze to death, it’s a good idea to find out what hardiness zone you’re in and do a little research.  Hardiness zones correspond to how warm or cold an area is.  There are 11 of them, with 1 being the coldest and 11 being Hawaii.  Here in Massachusetts, we tend to be in zone 6, with some lucky folks dabbling in zone 7 (I bet you didn’t suspect just how warm we are, did you?).

If you want to check out the zones for yourself or if you need information about an area outside Massachusetts click here for the USDA hardiness zone map: http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html

Because we’re between zones 6 and 7, we can expect the last possible frost no later than late April and the first frost of fall no earlier than October 15.  This means that less hardy plants like tomatoes, beans, and herbs should be started indoors and not planted in the soil outside until after the last frost date.  The more hearty plants like lettuces and other greens, radishes, peas, and potatoes can be planted a bit earlier.

So, here’s the basic concept:

  • March:
    • Start seedling indoors for cabbage, celery, and Brussels sprouts.
    • Plant hearty guys like onions, kale, broccoli, and peas outside but watch the weather channel religiously for signs of frost and be prepared to blanket them some chilly evenings.
    • April:
      • The cabbage is ready for transplanting outdoors.  If you haven’t already started your tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant: now is the time to start them in a sunny indoor window.
      • Plant greens like kale, lettuces, and spinach outside as well as beets, radishes, and carrots.
      • May:
        • If you feel like growing melons this summer, now is the time to start the transplants for them inside.
        • This is the month for planting outdoors (and good thing too since finals are over and summer has officially begun!).  Potatoes, beans, cucumbers, and summer squash are all ready for planting in the earth.
        • Your tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant can probably be moved outdoors now, but you may want to check the soil temperature before you transplant.  These guys don’t like their roots to fall much below 60 degrees F.
        • Beans can also be very happy with outdoor planting in May.
        • June:
          • You’re almost at the end of lettuce season in June, although some of the heartier varieties might last you until July depending on how good your microclimates are.  Once they start to bolt, rip them out and replace them with the Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and celery you started indoors.
          • Now is also the time to start winter squash in pots.
          • July:
            • Plant your winter squash just as you start to harvest the most delicious part of your garden.

For more information on when to plant check out the following resources:

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