Lawn & Garden

Backyard Tips: Yearly Planting Calendar

Start the new year off with a great garden that stays healthy and looking good all year. Use this calendar to know what to plant and when.

Planted pots

Backyard Tips: Yearly Planting Calendar

The year has only just begun, but it’s never too early to garden. If you live in a warm region, you can garden all year round, but even if you live in a cold, northerly climate, you can get a jumpstart on a lush, healthy garden by planning now. 

Read on for tips to create the garden of your dreams.

Find Your Hardiness Zones and Frost Dates

Wondering how you can tell when to plant flowers, veggies, fruits and herbs outdoors? Use the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to find out which plants are most likely to do well in your local climate. As you can see from the map, the warmer the region, the higher the zone number. Hardiness zones are based on the average minimum temperatures in that region. 

Frost dates, or the most likely dates of the first and last frosts of the winter season, are based on hardiness zone. In zones 5a and 5b, for example, the last frost usually happens in the first two weeks of April, while the first frost will most likely occur in the last two weeks of October. You should start planting your garden after the last frost and expect the season to end, for the most part, with the first frost.

Choose the Right Plants

You can use hardiness zones to choose plants that will thrive in your climate. If you live in a zone with minimum temperatures below freezing, choose frost-hardy perennials that will survive cold winter temperatures to come back strong in the spring. If you live in a tropical or subtropical region, you should still pay attention to the plant’s hardiness rating. Some plants thrive in a warm climate, but others require periods of cold weather to thrive, and some seeds, like lavender, germinate best if exposed to cold.

Calculate Planting Dates

Calculate your planting dates based on when you hope to put seeds, seedlings and young plants in the soil. Some vegetables, herbs and flowers do best when started indoors, and you’ll need to do this about six weeks before your outdoor planting date. 

For many vegetables, flowers and herbs, you can schedule your planting dates so they’re after the last frost, but keep in mind that different kinds of plants will need different outdoor planting dates, and build out your planting calendar accordingly. For example, peas, carrots and some lettuces like colder weather and will need to be planted outdoors early in the season, perhaps even before the last frost. Because cool-weather vegetables and greens tend to mature relatively quickly, you may be able to get a bumper crop by sowing them anew in the late summer. 

Other plants, like corn, tomatoes and cantaloupe, like warm weather and should be planted a few weeks after the last frost, when the soil has warmed up. Decide what you’re going to plant this spring well in advance and check seed packets, plant labels or the internet to determine the best time of year to plant each specific variety. Weather isn’t the only consideration — some vegetables, like pumpkins, take a long time to grow, so you should make sure that you plant them while there are still plenty of days left in the planting season for them to mature. 

If you live in a zone with minimum temperatures above freezing, you can enjoy two growing seasons. Plant vegetables and herbs in the spring for a summer crop and again in the fall for a winter crop. Choose tropical flowers, shrubs and trees for landscaping.

Start Seeds Indoors

Many vegetables, flowers and fruits can be sown directly into the ground from seed, but others will do best if started indoors and transplanted outside. Start seeds for tomatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, eggplant, cauliflower, cabbage, peppers, lettuce, watermelon, swiss chard and pumpkins indoors six to eight weeks before your planned outdoor planting date. Some plants, especially peppers and tomatoes, are difficult to grow from seed, so you may want to buy seedings instead. Check seed packets to determine which seeds can be sown directly into the soil and which should be started indoors.

If you want to grow a productive garden this year, you need to develop a planting calendar based your region’s climate and the plants you hope to cultivate. Do your research to determine which vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers you want to grow in your garden this year. Don’t procrastinate, because before you know it, it’ll be time to start planting.