Spring Planting Guide: See What Crops Up
By Martha Michael
Spring in the outdoors conjures up colorful views of beautiful blooms making their way above ground. But for gardening buffs it is also a time to decide what goes back into the soil. Choosing what to grow is a ripe opportunity because, even though flowery fields can fill vases and warm your heart, the crops you plant now can fill stomachs and warm bodies in the coming months.
Benefits of Growing Your Own Garden
Some advantages of eating fresh produce from your own garden are obvious, but you may also find it adds to your well-being -- from reducing your grocery bill to spending time in the yard with the kids. You don’t need to own an estate; even in the smallest yard you can make use of planters or drop seeds along your fence line and bring forth seasonal produce.
An article by One Green Planet points out there are many benefits to homegrown foods, both for you and the rest of the world.
Gardens provide you with exercise - When you lean over, squat, stretch, and lift, you’re burning calories. It may not compare to boot camp, but a choice between couch potato and potato planting can make a difference.
There is less waste - Aside from the apple you eat or the berries you drop into a smoothie, the farm-to-table process creates unnecessary waste products from packaging, not to mention fossil fuels used to drive the produce to market.
It’s less expensive than health food products - If you’ve gone organic you know the price tag can be uncomfortably high. Growing your own produce means the money you put in the earth is an investment in the future health of your family.
The May Planting Process
To some degree, what you plant now depends on where you live. The U.S. Department of Agriculture divides the United States into hardiness zones with various conditions for growing crops. It helps gardeners determine the likelihood of their plants thriving based on average annual winter temperatures and rainfall. There is at least a 10-degree difference between each of the 11 planting zones on the map.
Many crops grow favorably in nearly every zone, but the planting schedule may be somewhat different, in part because of the narrow window between freezes in the northern states. For instance, people in Zone 3 -- which includes states such as Wisconsin and Minnesota -- plant all of their vegetables between May and August. But people farther south in Zone 9 plant broccoli and spinach as early as February. If you’re in one of the central zones you may be planting beets and carrots, while in Florida you can get your tomatoes and peppers started. You can download a state, regional or national USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map on the agency’s website.
Wherever you live, May is a good time to grab your gardening gloves and get to work. An article in Real Simple Magazine offers a step-by-step guide to the process, beginning with the caveat that the size of your garden determines the level of maintenance you’ll be doing while it grows.
If heat-loving plants such as peppers and tomatoes are on your list, take temperature readings to pinpoint the best timing. Experts say that when your gauge shows that the soil stays consistently above 70 degrees, you’re ready to plant. Once you have the necessary warmth, maintaining proper moisture becomes the priority.
If you didn’t get your early season crops planted yet, there’s still time. Those may include radishes, onions, lettuce and Brussels sprouts. Depending on your zone, other choices for May include:
Assuming you followed instructions for proper spacing when you planted the seeds, you’re on your way to a healthy harvest after tending them as they grow.
Insect infestations can damage the leaves of your crop. If you find stripped stems, notches, holes, or pits, you know there’s trouble in the garden. First, remove the affected leaves and attempt to create a barrier. You can also look for an organic pesticide, then spray or dust the plants. Consult your local nursery before taking action.
The last step to enjoy in the gardening process is harvesting the growth, and with greater harvesting you may see an increase in their production. By making way for a garden in the yard, you’re planting seeds that go beyond the bounty at your table. If you’re like many Americans and it’s been a tough year, it’s a form of victory garden -- you’re saving money while eating healthier.
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