According to Scientific Reports, spending at least two hours per week in nature is good for your health and wellbeing.
But the hectic pace of daily life can often make it feel like nature stays firmly out of your reach.
Starting a garden is a fantastic way to get your weekly allotment of nature without having to go anywhere at all. A garden doesn’t have to be big or complicated, either.
But it is important to identify the best time to start your garden to give your new plants their best chance of growing and thriving, which is what we will talk about in this article.
Know Your Growing Zone
Growing zones, also known as USDA Hardiness Zones, indicate planting zones where different varietals tend to grow well.
The easiest way to think of this is to consider what produce you find at your local grocery store at different times of year and where that produce was grown.
There is a reason it is tough to find good watermelon in the middle of winter and your options for apples tend to be limited in the spring.
In the same way, if you want to grow a certain type of plant, herb, fruit or vegetable, you first need to know that plant’s ideal growing conditions.
This can get quite detailed. Let’s say you want to grow tomatoes. There is a lot to consider here. For starters, modern horticulture has allowed growers to develop different tomato varietals that grow better in different growing zones.
Some varietals like cooler weather and others thrive in hot weather. The size of the tomato (cherry versus beefsteak) can also make a big difference in when to plant.
Last but not least, it also matters how you start your plants.
Planting from a seed or even a young seedling will require more growing time to harvest, which requires you to forecast farther in advance to time the harvest with that varietal’s ideal growing conditions.
Make your Garden List
Once you identify your growing zone, the next step is to start making your list of plants. What do you want to grow in your garden?
With the tomato example above here, research will teach you that tomatoes are not frost-hardy during the day or night.
If your local temperatures drop below about 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12.78 Celsius) the plants will drop their flowers and you won’t get any tomatoes.
So you need to time the cultivation of your tomatoes for the start of the warm season in your growing zone.
When you are making your list, you don’t necessarily have to restrict your wish list to plants that typically grow well in your growing zone.
You just have to know the requirements for each plant so you plant it during the right time of year for its needs.
As a side perk, this will also help you keep your garden productive for longer each year. You can plant different vegetables, herbs and greenery at different times of year and have the fun of harvesting all year long.
And if it gets too cold outdoors to plant sweet and savory herbs, these can grow quite well in a window box garden indoors during the winter.
General Categories of Seasonal Crops
While your local growing zone will be one of your most important resources for annual garden planning, it can also help to get a general idea of which crops tend to enjoy cooler or warmer growing conditions.
Minnesota Extension shares helpful information about some general categories of vegetables that you can grow at different times of year.
Cool loving plants:
– Brussels sprouts.
– Swiss chard.
– Mustard greens.
Warm loving plants:
– Bell peppers.
– Honeydew melon.
Greenhouse Gardening for Year-Round Gardening
If you are reading this article and you live in a climate where extreme weather is the norm, you may be wondering what you can do to enjoy fresh produce without constantly battling the elements.
One great idea is to consider greenhouse gardening. A greenhouse allows you to stabilize growing conditions in a controlled setting even when outside weather makes gardening impossible.
In more temperate climates, a greenhouse offers a great way to start seeds and young seedlings safely and then transplant them to your outdoor garden as temperatures warm up. (Just keep in mind here that not all plants withstand transplanting well!)
With a greenhouse garden, your planting schedule will look somewhat different. For first-timers, you may want to start with easier varietals that typically grow very well in a greenhouse setting, such as these:
Consider Sunlight, Shade and Soil Conditions
Regardless of what you want to plant, you have to make sure the right plants get the right amount of sunlight or shade, humidity or aridity.
You can plant the right crop in the right season in your growing zone and still not experience success if that plant varietal isn’t getting the right mix of elements to trigger growth.
The Best Overall Time of Year to Start a Garden
The vast majority of varietals you have read about here will fare best when planted in temperate growing zones between the months of February and August. This may mean your harvest in some cases happens in very late fall or even early winter. Learn more about things you probably didn’t know about gardening.
While it may seem like a lot of work to plan out your annual growing calendar, this is also a huge part of the joy and fun of a garden! Click here for more gardening fun facts.