It is not too early to start your spring garden planning and planting. I know this is the end of December and beginning of January. But in Zone 9, with year-round gardening, vegetables are still growing from the fall garden, and crops can be readied for spring planting in a few weeks.
Pros and Cons of early spring planting
Early spring planting has its advantages:
* Many cool-weather crops are able to stand a frost or light freeze that would kill other seedlings.
* Early spring plantings avoid insect pests that come out later in the spring. You can begin harvesting some crops before the bugs start munching on them.
But you also have to watch out for a few things:
* Spring sprouts are tender, so you need to protect them from any late frosts. Watch the weather forecast closely, and have a row cover ready to protect your plants from cold weather.
* Know your seed germination temperatures. The soil must be warm enough to allow the seeds to germinate. You can also use a row cover to warm the soil if needed.
When to plant
The last frost date in Zone 9 is March 15. Count back from this date for planning when to direct seed outdoors, or to transplant seedlings.
Plant these seeds inside now: Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collards, Eggplants, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Mustard, Onions, Peppers, Spinach and Tomatoes. You will plant these outside around the end of January. They are cold-hardy, and can withstand frosts.
A general list of hard frost tolerant vegetables you can plant outside are: Asparagus, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Chives, Cilantro, Collards, Garlic, Horseradish, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leek, Parsley, Radish, Rutabaga, Sage, Shallots, Spinach and Turnips. These can be put in the garden 6 weeks before the last frost (February 1).
Light frost tolerant vegetables are: Beets, Carrots, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Endive, Lettuce, Mustard Greens, Onions, Parsnip, Peas, Potato and Swiss Chard. They can go in the garden 2-4 weeks before the last frost date (February 15 to March 1)
You can also find online seed planting calculators that are adjusted to your last frost date or gardening zone to further refine your garden planning.
If you are planting outdoors from seeds, you need to watch the soil temperature. The soil must be warm enough for seeds to germinate. Soil temperatures for planting vegetables should be:
* 40° F or warmer: Lettuce, kale, peas, spinach.
* 50° F or warmer: Onions, leeks, turnips, Swiss chard.
* 60° F or warmer: Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, beans, beets.
* 70° F or warmer: Tomatoes, squash, corn, cucumbers, melons, peppers.
How to measure soil temperature
Soil temperatures can be measured with a special garden thermometer. Regular medical thermometers may not go to a low enough temperature reading. You can get a triple purpose thermometer that measures temperature, moisture and soil pH here*.
To properly use a soil thermometer, first use a screwdriver to make a pilot hole so you won’t break your thermometer in hard soils. Follow the thermometer directions. If you are planting seeds or new plants, take your measurement at the recommended planting depth (usually the seed planting depth). If you’re measuring for a mixed garden, check at least 5-6 inches deep. Allow the recommended time to pass before you check the reading. Shade the thermometer in bright sunlight if necessary. Take measurements at various times through the day, and average the results.
If you have been following my gardening preparation series up to this point, you are pretty much ready for gardening in 2017. You have done a site plan, decided what to plant and where to plant it, what type of garden to make, and how to prepare your beds.
With this post, you have a guide to spring garden planning and planting. Here’s to hoping for a wonderful harvest in 2017!
* Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You don’t have to purchase them through my links, but if you do, you will help support StraightWay, Inc., a non-profit rehabilitation program that works with whole families as well as single moms and dads, and single guys and gals.