Mark your calendars!

If you have done a little gardening or a lot, you quickly realize that a garden journal and calendar become two of your best buddies.   If you’re like me, you think you’ll remember when you did things, but when the time comes to recall that info, you, well, you just can’t.

Calendars come in handy for a number of reasons.  For planning, for planting and for reminders.  If you have a perennial garden, live in Zone 4 (like we do in the Twin Cities) and grow ornamental grasses, mark “cut back grasses” on April 1.   If, like this year, there is still snow on the ground on April 1, wait until it’s gone, but ideally by April 15th or as soon as the snow is gone.  Then grab your gloves (dry grasses are like razor blades), some twine to tie the grasses up and out-of-the-way, and your hedge trimmer. Cut off approximately 2/3 of the previous year’s growth, or around 6 – 8″,  but if you see green shoots, don’t cut them off, cut up higher or you’ll end up giving your grasses a crew cut.

Back to veggies… I realized that I may have jumped ahead on the to-do list a little bit, or made assumptions about planning and planting gardens, so I’m going back to the list – and the calendar.  Grab a pen, and again, if you’re in Zone 4, mark “average last frost date” on May 15th.  This is basically the earliest you can safely plant your veggie garden without a significant risk of having everything wiped out by frost.  I typically try to plant around Memorial Day weekend.  By this time the soil will be warming up and plants will begin growing well.  There really isn’t much benefit to planting heat loving plants prior to this because they won’t “do” much and some even say it stunts them.  Plant too much later and you’ll end up losing valuable growing season time and risk having your plants not producing fruit before we get frost again in the fall.

Okay…. back to planning.  Grab the calendar, figure out a window of time that you want to plant (ideally between March 15th and Memorial Day).  Now, count backwards (in weeks) to today.  That will tell you how much time you have before your garden needs to be planted.  So, the next step is to check the back of your seed packets and see how far in advance they suggest “sowing seeds indoors”.  If you need more weeks to grow them than you just counted on the calendar it’s decision time.  Next check the days to maturity.  Count that out on the calendar from your estimated planting date and pray it’s before September 15th (our average 1st frost date in the Twin Cities – another one for the calendar).  If you’re cutting it really close, I would recommend buying seedlings from your local nursery right before you intend to plant.  They will typically have already been started and close to maturity when you purchase them.

If you plan on “direct sowing” into your garden – again make sure to check the “days to maturity”to make sure you have enough time between planting and maturity to enjoy your harvest!


One Comment to “Mark your calendars!”

  1. All this talk about planting…you make me want to get out there and work in the yard…and that is hard to do. Keep it up. Proud of you.


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