In the Dirt by Ray Greenstreet

Spring Is on the Way – Time to Plan Out Your Garden!

(All photos courtesy of Greenstreet Gardens)

By Ray Greenstreet

Alexandria, VA – We’ve officially rung in the New Year, which means it’s time to start planning out the garden for the year to come! Really, could there be a better way to get through these dreary winter days? However, deciding the best time to plant is one of the most common issues gardeners face. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a simple black and white answer. But, creating a plan with a planting calendar for Maryland and Virginia can help take the guesswork out of the process.

So What Is A Planting Calendar Anyway?

A planting calendar is a personalized guide you can create to help figure out the optimal time to plant your veggies, flowers, or even trees and shrubs based on the particular conditions you are planting in. For example, a Virginia or Maryland planting calendar will look slightly different from a Florida planting calendar based on the different climates and conditions.

Since we are no stranger to winter here, our spring and fall planting calendar should mainly be based on the last spring frost and the first fall frost. Or, if you’re into it, you can also create a moon planting calendar based on the moon cycles.

It is said that the cycles of the moon affect plant growth. In the same way that they affect tides, moon cycles can also affect soil moisture levels. As rumor has it, seeds can absorb more water during the full and new moon because moisture is pulled to the surface. Planting seeds at this time can cause them to swell, which may result in better germination and, in turn, better-established plants.

When Should I Plant My Veggies?

As you begin to create your planting calendar and start to think about your vegetable garden, you want to figure out which of your vegetables are cool-season crops versus summer crops.

Cool-season vegetables like broccoli, potatoes, carrots, or kale do well when planted in the early spring (anywhere from two to four weeks before the last spring frost, which can be as early as the first week of April). But summer vegetables will not fare well if they are hit with frost, so you want to wait to plant them until nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees, generally around early May.

When Should I Plant My Flowers?

Most perennial flowers do best when planted in temperate weather; not too warm and not too cool. Plant perennials around mid-April or from late September to late October.

Annuals are slightly different; most annuals are categorized as either cool-season or warm-season annuals, corresponding to the best time to plant them. Annuals like calendula, poppies, and pansies are a few that relish in the cool temperatures of early spring and late fall. Some will even handle a light frost or snow!

On the other hand, warm-season annuals like marigolds, petunias, geraniums, and impatiens should not be planted until the risk of frost has passed. Remember that these flowers will need more care and attention in the summer when the sun is hot and the soil dries out quickly.

When To Plant Bulbs

If planting bulbs, you will want to do so about a season or two before they are expected to flower. So, if you are looking at the year ahead, plan to plant summer-flowering bulbs (like dahlias and ranunculus) in the spring between mid-April and mid-May and spring-flowering bulbs (such as tulips and daffodils) during the preceding fall between mid-September and late October.

When Should I Plant Trees or Shrubs?

Extreme temperatures of any kind can be hard on budding trees. Of course, the ground doesn’t cooperate when frozen, so you are best sticking to planting in either early spring or late fall. A general rule of thumb is to ensure that the tree is in its dormant state when you plant, as it is less susceptible to damage or harm. If you want to plant a tree or shrub in a container, you have a little more flexibility but will likely still want to avoid planting in the middle of winter.

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