The idea of eating vegetables from your very own garden may have you wanting to dig in the dirt and start planting right now. Before you do that, it's important to understand the climate zone for your area. Climate zones are your guide in knowing when it's safe to start planting certain plants based on frost-free dates for the area of the country where you live.
There is a frost-free date in the spring that indicates when it is safe to start planting vegetables or plants that don't like the frost. In the fall, there is also a first-frost date that tells you when it will be too cold for many things to grow well. The number of days in between these two dates is called the growing season.
Ask your local Southern States dealer about the frost-free dates in your area. You may also refer to plant hardiness zone maps which show a geographically defined area in which a plant is capable of growing as defined by climatic conditions including its ability to withstand the low temperatures of that zone.
The Southern States Vegetable Seed Catalog offers valuable information to gardeners. A planting chart on page 11 & 12 of the catalog lists optimum planting dates, based on the upper south climate zone, and includes a chart to determine how much seed to buy for your garden.
You've decided to plant a vegetable garden, but how do you begin? Here are some suggestions for getting started and reaping the rewards of fresh, tasty vegetables grown by you.
Before you know it, your garden will be growing and you'll be enjoying the fresh-picked flavor of a variety of vegetables you grew yourself.
Below, we've provided some quick & easy advice for growing great vegetables this year. Call us or find our local store to talk to our garden experts on local vegetable gardening tips.
For the earliest tomatoes, start tomato seeds indoors about 4 to 6 weeks before time to set outside. After seedlings are about 2 inches high, transplant to pots or boxes. Transplant again, this time to the garden, after there is no longer a danger of frost. Place individual plants, including roots and dirt, in watered holes, leaving 3 to 4 feet between each plant. Have garden soil enriched with compost or aged manure. It's a good idea to mulch with straw while the plants are still only a few feet tall to ensure moisture retention. For best results, be sure to use a fertilizer with a high calcium content. This will help prevent blossom-end rot.
By following a few simple rules, squash can make even the most indifferent gardener an unqualified success. As soon as the soil is warm, plant 8 to 10 squash seeds in hills of soil that are spaced 4 to 6 feet apart. Then thin the seedlings out, leaving the three sturdiest plants to each hill. Squash likes lots of organic matter such as aged manure or compost in its soil. For best flavor, harvest the vegetables while they are young and still shiny, and before their seeds are well developed. A versatile vegetable, the many varieties of squash lend themselves to everything from appetizers to desserts. They are excellent sautéed or steamed and when used in casseroles, breads or cakes. They're even good raw with dips.
When growing melons, weather is key. The warmer it is, the sweeter the melons will be. Plant melon seeds in late spring to early summer, when air and soil are very warm. It will help to use plenty of compost or manure, then cover with black plastic. Transplanted seedlings can be placed into holes punched in the plastic if necessary. Sow 1/2 inch deep in hills that are 6 to 8 feet apart. For cantaloupes and muskmelons, plant 10 to 12 seeds per hill, then thin to four plants each. Plant only 6 to 8 seeds per hill for watermelon, and thin as needed.
Sow carrot seeds early in spring as soon as the ground is workable. The seed is very small and much easier to sow if mixed with sand or fine soil. Sow 1/2 inch deep in rows 1 foot apart. Thin while young, and again several times as they grow, ending with plants 2 inches apart. Carrot seeds need to be kept evenly moist as they are slow to germinate, sometimes taking several weeks. For best flavor, wait to harvest until carrots are deeply colored and fully matured.