Planting guide

BrandysmbjFebruary 17, 2011

Hello all! Wasn't it a beautiful sunny day?

I have been lurking here for quite some time (much appreciate all of your expertise) and decided it's time to jump in. After three years of C+ gardening, I'm ready to get on the honor roll. :)

I'm looking for a good planting guide that is zone specific and easy to read. I would love to print something and add to my garden notebook. (note to self; finally start garden notebook.) I have searched and came across one I will link, but it doesn't seem to follow dates i have used in the past, it seems rather late. I really like how easy it is to read, though.

Any suggestions? What have you all done to keep track of all the dates?

Thank you.

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    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 10:35PM
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cjlambert(6b Tulsa)

Welcome Brandy, and yes, it was a beautiful day, and I wish I could have spent more time out in it! The veggieharvest site is interesting, but I always look to the OSU planting guides, too. Just today, I pulled out my cool season planting guide to double-check on the timing for onions and potatoes, because those are two crops I want to get in the ground soon. There are many sources for this type of information, and the OSU guides work well for me. I also use a spreadsheet to keep track of seed-sowing and transplanting times, just because I'm kind of geeky about that, and like to keep notes about the particular variety, and so I remember why I wanted to plant it in the first place!

And, this is reminding me that I wanted to get the chile seeds started this week, and that hasn't happened yet!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 11:09PM
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It is pretty and easy to read, and it does seem a little late. But I live in the northern edge of zone 7, when I type my zip code in on the chart it list me as 7-8. If I had that chart in my note book I think I would place a few notes on it.

I have some old gardening books and it looks as if the average frost dates may change a little.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 11:13PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Hi Brandy, I'm glad you decided to start posting here on the forum.

I looked at the planting calendar on the website you linked and couldn't see anything explicitly wrong with their planting dates, but they are so vague and nonspecific that I'm not terribly comfortable with them either.

When we first moved here, I used the dates on the OSU planning guides that Carol mentioned, and I still recommend them to folks almost every week, and sometimes every day at this time of the year. If you use the OSU-recommended keep in mind that a specific date range for the spring garden might say "Feb. 15th - March 10th" and that means that if you're in southern portions of the state, you plant on or near Feb. 15th, if you're in northern portions of the state, you plant on or near March 10th, and if you're in central OK, you choose a date somewhere in between.

I still start my seeds indoors based mostly on OSU-recommended planting dates, but the actual date I do the in-ground transplanting or planting may vary a bit.

We are in our 13th year here now so I have "customized" the recommended dates to suit our specific microclimate in our specific county, and it has been a very gradual process. I've based that customization on a fairly complex process that is derived partly from the OSU recommended dates, partly from recommended dates for Gainesville, TX, which sits across the Red River from me (our weather at our house is almost identical to theirs), current soil temperatures, current air temperatures and the 10-day forecast. I know that sounds very complicated, but it really isn't once you've gardened in an area for a while and have learned what to expect in your specific location.

When we first moved here, I jotted down brief notes on a wall calendar that I bought only for that purpose so that my garden notes wouldn't clog up the family calendar in the kitchen. On each day's square I'd jot down the high temperature and low temperature and, if I had planted that day, a brief note detailing what I did. So, for February 12th, I might have an entry like this: "Planted onions. H: 53 L: 36" or an entry for March 29th might say "Planted sweet corn. H: 65 L: 42". Then, if we had a significant weather event like hail or thunderstorms or a freeze or frost, I jotted that onto the calendar as well.

The following year, I'd look at the calendar from the previous year and adjust my planting dates accordingly. That method of planting by the calendar worked fairly well from about 1999 until about 2006. Then, here in our county, we seemed to have an abrupt climate change that began giving us frosts and freezes and cold nights much, much later in the spring. So, with an "average last frost" date of March 27th, we were consistently having a killing or damaging frost on/around May 2nd, 3rd or 4th. How in the world do you plan for that?

Realizing I couldn't rely on "average" dates any more, I began paying more attention to soil temperature, air temperature and the long-range forecast, all of which has helped a lot. Now, no matter what the calendar says, I won't plant until the soil temperatures are staying consistently at the minimum temperature each type of vegetable needs, and even when the soil temps are right, I look at the air temps and long-range forecast to try to make sure a huge cold front isn't lurking out there.

Since I switched from a calendar-based system to a hybrid calendar/temperature/forecast-based system, I've had much better success with keeping my plants from freezing and also the plants have performed better, often giving me earlier yields from a later planting because the plants didn't stunt or stall while temperatures remained a bit too cold for them.

We walk a very fine line in our state with planting dates because some years the weather goes from "too cold" to "too hot" almost overnight and planting a specific crop a week or two "late" can severely impact your harvest.

So, my suggestion is that you use the OSU-recommended planting dates as a "suggestion" only, and also keep an eye on your soil temperature (you can check it with a meat thermometer with a metal probe or you can spend quite a lot more money for a "soil thermometer" that is virtually the same thing), air temperature and 10-day forecast.

Also, since you're in zone 6, all you really have to do is watch this forum and note when other people are planting. You'll generally see people planting in the ground a bit earlier in zone 7 parts of Oklahoma and then you'll see folks planting a week or so later in central OK, and then maybe a few days later in northern OK, with there being some degree of variation because folks in NE OK often can plant a bit earlier than those in far NW OK.

It really pays off to plant by soil temp/air temp/forecast. I have an old farmer friend here who prefers to plant by the calendar and he often loses some or maybe all his early plantings to a freeze or frost 2 or 3 or 4 weeks later. He gives me a really hard time about me planting later, but since my plants tend not to freeze, I often get an earlier harvest than he does. Even in years when his early plantings don't freeze, my later plantings catch up with and even surpass his because my plants never grew in the colder soil and air temps.

It took me a while to wean myself off planting by the calendar, but once I began having better success with planting guided by temperature info, I began having more consistent garden success and almost no crop failures.

I'll try to come back in a while after I do my morning animal chores and list some temperature data that might be helpful.

By the way, the average weather data like "last average frost date" info is based on 30-year averages, and the current data we see is based on weather data from 1971-2000. Sometime after 2010 that data will be reworked to give us new average weather data from the 30-year period from 1981 to 2010. It will be interesting to see how or if the average weather data changes.


    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 9:41AM
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Thank you all, and of course, Dawn. I'm embarrassed to say that I have been following this forum for over 2 years without chiming in. My husband and our FOUR boys and I have grown about a 3/4 acre garden for several years and people think I'm a gardening genius. Much of the advice I give came from on of you before I tried it. So a warm thank you. I am about 15 miles south of Chetopa, Kansas. So I do have to think more "north" in my planting. What I've found in the past few years is that I'm not really getting much better at gardening like I should. I think it is due to not tracking my planting. Last year, for example, we had great luck with potatoes, beans, peppers, melons, but bad luck with tomatoes, corn, and winter squash. Seems like the year before was almost opposite. I obviously need to track what I've planted, variety, date, progress, outcome, etc. So far I have a notebook labeled "garden" and a husband that has made me a spreadsheet that I don't care for (the spreadsheet, not the hubby.)

So I'm curious easy ways to get a visual on what I've done as well as when I should be starting seeds, planting in ground, etc. Dawn, I really like the idea of the calendar to track. I also liked that the veggie harvest site included when to start from seed. I know I could sit down, look over all of my seed and make a chart, but I also know that smarter people than me have already done it, even better. So why reinvent the wheel?

If it sounds like I am thinking aloud, it's because I am. :)

On a side note, we built a hoop house three years ago and I have enjoyed using it for seed starting. We made it from PVC and it hasn't held up in the wind so this weekend we are dismantling it and rebuilding one using metal pipe. Yay for sunny weather!

My mom had 5 kids and always said I was like Pigpen on Charlie Brown, her dirtiest kid, playing in the dirt. Sone things never change. . .


    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 12:09PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Well, even if you "lurked" for a couple of years without posting a word and saying "Hey, here I am!" at least we get to meet you now, so it's all good. Isn't it fun to jump into the pool and swim with the rest of us?

With a husband, four boys and a large garden, I don't know how you have any time at all. I suspect you're more of a "gardening genius" than you think you are because clearly you are good at raising a crop. I don't think anyone gets a great harvest from every single vegetable they plant every year because the weather here in our section of the country just slaps our plants around far too much.

It doesn't matter how much any of us know or think we know, how well we do or don't apply it, how experienced we are or aren't etc., the truth is that as gardeners we generally are almost completely at the mercy of the weather, and sometimes Mother Nature just sends us too much wild weather.

I am relieved to read it is the spreadsheet you don't care for and not the hubby! I was starting to get worried there for a minute.

If you plant a huge diversity of crops, and even several varieties of each type of vegetable, it increases the likelihood of getting a decent crop, and that is one of my main strategies for success. That's one reason why I plant so many kinds of veggies. Does my family "need" 80 varieties of tomatoes and 20 varieties of beans or 25 kinds of peppers? No, of course we don't, but it gives us higher odds of harvesting a reasonable amount from at least some of the varieties.

It doesn't really matter how your track your can track it by pounds, but weighing everything gets old. I tried last year, and by July I was tired of the time it took to weigh everything. I was using a tiny kitchen scale though and think I might be happier if I bought a much larger scale. You can track it by how many gallons or quarts or whatever you pick, or by how much you eat from the garden during the growing season or by how much you put up for winter via freezing, canning or dehydrating. For years now I have mostly tracked it for myself by how exhausted I am during canning season. When I start whining and complaining to my husband that I am too tired and will plant "less" next year, that's when I know the garden has been hugely productive! Luckily (as you can tell from the things I write here) I get over that feeling and always plant "more" the next year and not "less".

I know lots of people love computer spreadsheets but to me they are a chore I'd rather not be "stuck" with. I just track it in my head and by looking at my freezers, canning closet and root cellar. Even if I forget how many lbs. or qts. of any individual crop we harvested, I remember what we ran out of first and what I missed most. That's what I plant more of the following year, but then Mother Nature still has to cooperate or planting more doesn't necessarily mean getting a larger harvest.

Last year was a bad bean year here because we had hordes of grasshoppers and they love bean plants. So, this year I'll overcompensate by planting far too many beans. That's my method! Each year I overplant whatever did not do well enough the year before.

I bet you're enjoying your hoophouse. Mine is mostly still in the garage, but we worked on it some this week and hope to do more next week. I mostly want it for seedstarting and for growing on the seedlings until it is time to transplant them out, and I still want a traditional greenhouse or a sunshed too. I thought if we started with this one, least it is a start and then later on we can build a more permanent and more sturdy structure.

I am hardening off tomato plants and lettuce plants that were raised indoors under lights and the wind is making it very hard. Every day I have to strategically place them in a location where the house or garage will block them from most of the wind. I raise them with fans blowing on them indoors because it helps strengthen them, but there's still a big difference in the amount of "wind" they receive from those fans inside and the amount of strong wind they have to endure in late Feb. and early Mar. outdoors. That's where the hoophouse-style greenhouse should come it handy---by blocking some of that wind, I hope.

I'm so relieved to hear you are a Pigpen too, because I know that I am one. Throughout the gardening season, a tornado of dirt and debris follows me wherever I go. I try to blame it on the dogs and cats, but I'm not fooling anybody....everyone knows I am the "dirty one". I keep telling my husband that if only he'd built me a house with a dirt floor, then he'd never notice when I tracked dirt in on my gardening boots or shoes because it would blend right in. Of course, I'm only kidding.....I think.

Now, I think I am going to go post the planting temperature data on its own thread so that we can find it later when someone else is looking for similar information. The search function here works best when we use really specific words in the "subject of posting line".


    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 1:17PM
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Hi everyone- I'm another 'lurker' who loves learning from you. As a second-year gardening rookie, I also struggle with what to plant and when, and how to plan the spring-summer-fall planting succession in my square-foot gardens. (any tips on that one would be welcome!)

This morning I found a planting guide that I think will work for the first problem. You fill in the dates, based on your freeze date (yeah, I'm not going to be taking the soil temp for a while yet...) and she tells you what you should be planting, including the final 'last-chance-to-plant-it-for-this-season' date. Here you go!:

Here is a link that might be useful: planting schedule

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 12:35PM
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