Have you ever gone online, gotten some what seemed like solid gardening information only to have your garden fail miserably? I have and it sucks! It has taken me years of trial and error to figure out which information is right for me, when I should be starting seeds indoors, and what will be part of each winter sowing session.
There’s a ton of great information out there available to us. Books, websites, blog posts, and word of mouth information abounds. The problem with all of this great information is that it doesn’t necessarily speak to the zone or climate where we live. It also does not consider the microclimate of our property, or even the type of soil we have and what it needs.
There are so many factors that go into successful gardening. I’m going to share with you how to weed through all that information. You can use the information I’m giving you today to help you plan your spring garden, wherever you are.
Understand Your Planting Zone
The U.S. is broken up into 10 planting zones, Some of the zones are similar enough to share planting schedules, but most aren’t. For nearly every type of seed, there is a special month that it needs to be planted in order to germinate. Germination depends on soil temperature, and growth depends on air temperature and sunlight.
Starting seeds too early or too late will make all the difference in how your garden grows. It can also affect how vigorous your plants will be. When choosing what to plant, you will save yourself a lot of time if you stick to your planting zone’s schedule. I’ve made up a “Super Simple Planting Zone Cheat Sheet” to help you. It’s in my resource library, and you’ll be able to get the password at the bottom of this post.
If you don’t know what planting zone you are gardening, you will need to know that. I covered that my How to Start Your Own Garden and Save Money article from a few weeks ago. To save a little time reading, you can just head over to the USDA Hardiness Zone Finder to find yours. Coupled with the cheat sheet I mentioned above, you should be all set to choose your seeds to plant for spring.
Understand What Grows Well in Your Area
Do you know exactly which varieties of vegetables do well in your area? Does it matter? Yep, it does.
Despite the fact that your planting zone may be right for starting snap beans in March or April, it doesn’t always mean they will thrive well. For example, in my zone (9), I can plant snap beans in March and April, but certain varieties don’t do well.
I’ve tried to grow Blue Lake Bush beans more years than I care to remember. Despite the fact that they are supposed to be SUPER easy to grow, I can’t seem to get them to do anything here. The beans that grow best where I live are Rattlesnake Pole beans. They do well in the extreme temperatures we get here (over 100 for two of the three summer months), and are pretty prolific.
I found this information out by talking to local gardeners and asking which varieties do best in their gardens. Over the years, I have tried different seeds to see if I can get the same success that my local friends have. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t, which leads me to my next piece of advice.
Understand Your Property’s Microclimate
Each property, and even section of our property, has its own microclimate. That sounds really confusing at first, but it’s really not. Think of it this way: if you have an area that is very sunny all day long, the microclimate will be warmer than an area that gets shade for half of the day. The soil will also be warmer in the full-sun patch of your property, than in the shady patch.
The amount of sun and shade a piece of land gets will inform your choices of what to plant in each area. Delicate-leafed plants, like herbs and lettuce, can go into partial shade areas, while heartier plants, like tomatoes and peppers will want to full sun on them for most of the day.
There will also be other things to understand about the eco-system of each patch of land. The eco-system is what is found in the soil as far as nutrients, structure, and life (like bugs and worms). You can go out and dig around in your land patches to try to understand these things, but trial and error over time will probably give you a better understanding of what to expect in your garden.