I learned the importance of knowing when to plant the hard way. When I first started gardening, my garden REALLY STRUGGLED. Seeds would sprout and grow, but then temperatures would climb (or fall) and the plants would die before harvest time.
It took time to realize that although the soil was good and I was watering, my timing was wrong. Knowing where to look for accurate planting information was difficult. However, once I found and started using a planting guide meant for my area, I began having successful harvests.
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Why do I need a planting calendar to tell me when to plant?
Every vegetable, herb, fruit, and flower has a preferred growing temperature. Some crops prefer cooler weather and tolerate a little frost; others need warmer weather to grow well and would die in frosty conditions. Plants are happiest and grow best when they are planted at the ideal soil temperature and growing conditions.
Planting crops at the right time is a crucial part of gardening. However, the best time to plant varies greatly by region. A big part of gardening success is learning the unique growing conditions of your area.
For example, in many parts of the United States, Mother’s Day (mid-May) is the best time to plant tomatoes. However, if you plant tomatoes on Mother’s Day in the low desert of Arizona, your plants will not have time to get established before the extreme heat of summer.
In the low desert, tomatoes are planted in late February or March with another planting window when the monsoon rains begin in late July and August.
How can I find a planting calendar that tells me when to plant for my area?
Using a reliable planting guide developed for your area gives you the greatest chance of success.
To find a planting guide or calendar for your area:
- Ask experienced gardeners in your area.
- Contact your local extension office (linked below) to help determine the best time to plant. Many extension offices have planting calendars linked on their website. Temperatures and climate can vary widely within a state; look for the county extension office closest to you if possible.
- Local nurseries can be an excellent resource for planting dates and information.
- If you can’t find a planting guide for your area, there are still ways to determine the best time to plant. Use your first and last frost dates to make your planting calendar. This knowledge is a good starting point. Many crops give you an average planting date, such as “2 weeks before/after your last frost date”.
How can I find my average frost dates?
It is important to know your average first and last frost dates. To find your dates, go to www.almanac.com/frostdates/.
What is my “growing season”?
The number of days between your last and first frost date is your “growing season”. Colder areas have a shorter growing season than warmer areas. Understanding the length of your growing season allows you to select vegetable varieties well-suited to your area.
How can I find my hardiness zone?
For fruit trees and perennial plants, it is also important to know your USDA growing zone. To learn your zone, go to https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/ and enter your zip code.
Awareness of your growing zone helps you know which fruit trees will survive outdoors or if containers need to be brought inside during cold months.
List of Extension Offices by State:
Click on a state name to go to the extension website for that state. Most extension offices have planting guides and other growing information linked within their website.
Credit to https://www.almanac.com/ for compiling this list.
If you live in the low desert of Arizona, I have several planting guide resources:
When I first started gardening, I didn’t know where to go for correct information about when to plant here in the low desert of Arizona. Now that I am learning when to plant from resources like the University of Arizona Extension Office and my own experience, I’m passionate about sharing what I’ve learned.
A blog post with seed starting dates and information.
A perpetual planting calendar. Each month has a planting guide (letter boards) for the vegetables, herbs, and flowers to plant outside in the low desert of Arizona.
Seed box planting date labels that list the indoor and/or outdoor planting dates for vegetables.