As a long-time gardener, a question I often get is, “When should I plant my garden?” I’m glad when people ask me this. Too often, new gardeners don’t plan out their garden strategically and won’t be as healthy and productive. By knowing more about your soil, location, when and how to plant, you can see more growth and productivity in your garden.
When we think of spring, we often think of flowers blooming in gardens. But for most of the northern hemisphere, planting a garden so your flowers bloom by late March or early April would not be a great move. Depending on where you live, when you should plant your garden might be later than you think.
Avoid gardening before the last frost
One of the most common times of year to start a garden is in spring, but you want to hold off until after the last frost. Due to climate change, when the last frost will take place is more unpredictable than in past decades, but the Farmer’s Almanac provides a relatively accurate guide on when the last frost will be.
Of course, the last frost will happen earlier in warmer regions and colder in northern regions. Make sure when you look at the Farmer’s Almanac predictions, or any other predictions, that you don’t look at a different region than where you live.
Consider what you will be planting
While a good rule of thumb is to plant after the last frost, the best dates to plant your seeds might differ based on the type of plants. Some plants, such as carrots, need to be planted earlier than other plants, such as arugula.
The harvest times for plants will differ as well so you’ll want to refer to the Farmer’s Almanac or another source for the recommended planting and harvest dates for whatever you want to plant. When looking up resources, try to get local ones. A guide on when to plant and harvest avocados in California won’t do you any good if you live in London!
You should also take into account what plants are native to your region. Native plants are better for the environment, they fight off harmful pests, and tend to be more resilient. I always recommend reserving a quarter of your garden for native plants.
Is gardening limited to one season?
While most plants are planted in the spring, that’s not the only season when you can garden, especially if you live in a more temperate climate. Here in Santa Barbara, California, we can even garden year round, though that isn’t normal for most parts of the world.
If you are fortunate enough to live somewhere where you can plant year round, check out my guide to five veggies to plant this winter. These winter veggies work best in environments that see very few frosts in winter.
There are also a variety of fall plants you can consider. Certain herbs in particular, such as rosemary, thyme, and sage are great to plant in autumn. You can grow these in your garden in September and add them to your plate throughout the fall and winter months.
What should I do before starting my garden?
Knowing when to start your garden is only one piece of the puzzle. A successful garden is the result of strategic planning, especially if you want yours to be organic.
The foundation for organic gardening is biodiversity. In the wild, a variety of plants and wildlife exist independently-providing shelter, moisture, continual bloom when pollen is available for insects, and support for all the creatures within the system. You can apply the biodiversity principle at home by following these key steps in organic gardening:
- Build-up the soil
- Use natural fertilizer and pest control
- Choose companion plants for your climate zone
- Arrange plants so they provide a habitat for insects and wildlife that actually benefit garden health
When it comes to getting the best companion plants, natural fertilizer, and soil, it’s best to do diligent research on your region. Choosing the right soil, natural fertilizer, and native plants depends entirely on where you live. Even arranging your plants in an organic fashion can differ, depending on what insects and wildlife are in your zip code.
In fact, planning out an organic garden as well as knowing what to plant can differ dramatically over a short geographic region. That’s why the Farmer’s Almanac and other gardening resources make recommendations based on zip code instead of the broader region where you live.
If you combine these principles with good gardening habits, you’ll soon have an organic green thumb (and lots of delicious, good-for-you vegetables to eat).