Happy spring! Plan your garden.

Happy first day of spring!! Many of you may live in places where it actually seems like spring. Perhaps there are daffodils or tulips or trees that are starting to leaf out. Or at least some patches of bare ground and puddles. Yes, that sounds really nice, and I don’t even care if you feel smug about it.

Here, we’re approaching mud season, which is the season between winter and spring where we wait for the snow to melt, break out of our cabin fever, and tap some trees. It can be an incredibly hopeful time of year, and it can also feel like a painfully loooooong wait for warm weather. So loooooooooong.

My garden is still under 2-4 feet of snow!
My garden is still under 2-4 feet of snow!


When will it be warm enough?

If you’re impatient like me, you might be wondering: When will it be warm enough to…

… to plant my garden?

….to ride my bike?

… to [insert your particular interest here; I’m only thinking about biking and gardening!]?

And if, like me, you can’t quite get out and do these things, you can at least kick back in your recliner and start getting ready.

Getting ready to garden

With snow on the ground, it’s almost hard to imagine springtime, but it will get here soon  eventually. Because plants depend on warm temperatures, knowing the date of the last frost and overall growing season length is important to making planting plans. You can find a general map of the date of last freeze in a number of places, including the Weather Channel or inside a seed catalog (although note that the frost-free period is different than the plant hardiness zones, which are used for perennial plants). But these tend to be for the entire country and don’t provide much useful detail. To get local data, you can use the Midwest Regional Climate Center Climate Summaries tool  Ithat is, if you’re lucky enough to live in the Midwest!). It has tons of information from individual weather stations, which give a lot more detail.

To find your growing season, search for a nearby weather station using the pulldown menus and selected the Growing Season report. Ta da! Right now, you’re probably most interested in the last occurrence of freezing weather, and the table provides the median, record, and 10%/90% percentile values. In this case, we’re interested in the 10% and late values because these indicate when there should be very little chance of frost. In my area, only 10% of frosts occur after May 27 and the record late frost is June 11. In my experience, this is a completely reasonable window for planting, and I usually risk planting earlier rather than later since our house tends to be a bit warmer than average.

You can use the same table to find the date of last frost. And, then you can use the magical Seed Starting Chart to figure out when to plant different vegetables, both indoors and out! 

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