A Greenhorn Gardening follower recently asked, "When should you start planning for next growing season." The easy answer: December. The reason: It's easy to get behind in all your gardening because if you wait until next growing season to get started, you'll be too late. The best way is to get ahead so that when the time comes it's just a matter of execution.


Below are few things to keep in mind when thinking about next growing season. I know that I'm sending this out way early, and I plan to do a more extensive vegetable garden planning series in December/January. I just wanted to get something out there for those of you who missed this year's growing season and don't want to miss next time.


If you want concrete dates for zone 7b, mark these on your calendar now:

  • February 20: one month before last frost. Make ready your garden plot. Plant salad garden.
  • March 20: Last frost date. Most hot weather plants can survive outside from now until early November. tomatoes, peppers, beans cucurbits
  • Sept 11: Plant fall garden, i.e., collards, mustard, turnips or more salad. Plant very densely to survive winter. Second option is to try and make your summer garden last much longer.
  • November 11 First frost is usually a light frost. Light damage occurs to summer plants. Cold weather plant will be in thier natural temperature range.
  • November 24 Killing frost: Summer plants will die. Cold weather plants will be fine.


Note that these dates are for my area, zone 7b. Your date will be different according to your hardiness zone. A hardiness zone is defined as the geographic area in which a specific kind of plant is capable of growing in. It's largely based on climate. Go to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to find what zone you're in.


There is wiggle room, so focus more on getting the task done within a week either side of the dates listed. The most important of dates here are the first and last frost dates. The entire growing season is planned around them. (Again, if you're in zone 5, your dates will be different than what is listed here.)


Why December


The best month to plan your garden is December. Most people are busy during December and put it off until January. I prefer December because most farmers plan in December, so it's best to order your seeds and supplies before Christmas to avoid any delays. Start on Dec. 1 by thinking about what you want to eat or grow. (You can do all this now if you wanted.)


I buy seeds mostly from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (SESE). Seeds cost pennies; plants cost dollars. You have to decide between the two. Buying plants will get you going faster and with less frustration than starting seeds, but seeds are less than a penny each. The great thing about SESE is they have lots of planting and cultivation information for each variety. They tell you how to plant each plant. For instance their pepper cultivation page tells you when to plant them and how.


What to Grow

Food is energy, i.e., megajoules, calories. Meat, grains, beans and potatoes have lots of energy. Salad greens have vitamins and minerals. When growing for survival, always default on growing calorie producing plants. Think about it: If vitamins and minerals were all we needed, then why not swallow a multivitamin once a day and never eat anything else? Salad gardens are easier to learn to grow because they produce faster.


Again ,stick with garden vegetables that you want to eat. The whole point is to grow something to eat, right? Therefore, grow something that you'll enjoy, and you'll give it more of a chance becasue the payoff is something you're looking forward to.


Grow'em big,


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