Do you ever think of gardening as something you just do in the spring and summer?
I am here to tell you that gardening is a year long hobby that will bring you amazing seasonal fruits and vegetables. Here are some considerations and ways to have a year-round fresh produce.
So the question to be answered is “How do I grow a year’s worth of food?”
Let’s start with climate.
I live in a zone 9A climate borderline 8 because we do get snow on occasion because of our elevation in comparison to the rest of our city. This zone allows me to grow pretty much everything I want outdoors if planned accordingly. When you are in a cooler climate there may be other things that you have to do to extend your “seasons”. When I lived in a very cold zone 5 I always felt like this meant extending spring and summer.
Do you know your climate?
Some resources to figure this out can be found at US Climate Data, This will tell you average temperatures, days of rain, how many inches of rain and the average amount of days with sunshine.
The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map shows you the zone that you live in using the climate data. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is used to show the lowest temperature that your area goes to. This will help you in your decision process of what to buy because if you are trying to plant a banana tree where the temperature drops below zero and the tree can only go as low as 55ºF [although surprisingly there are some varieties that can go into freezing temperatures, they do not produce fruit] then it is best not to purchase that tree and go for something more suited for your climate. The same goes for Heat tolerance. This site also is interactive where you can go all the way down to your specific zip code. Go try it out at the link above.
The American Horticulture Society has come up with a zone heat map. This is important for the plants that are not able to grow above certain temperatures. Did you know that most plants stop growing at temperatures above 85ºF? Some plants have adapted to survive in temperatures way beyond 85ºF, but they are just waiting it out until they can grow again.
Then there is the Chilling hours map from Raintree Nursery, this provides a number of hours that a region has the temperatures between 32-45ºF. This is important mostly for deciduous plants that need a winter dormancy period or for herbaceous perennials, fruiting trees, and fall bulbs.
So now that you know you’re climate lets focus on what you want to grow. If you read this post How to Choose What to Grow you will see questions to ask yourself and your family what you should grow, and where you should get your plants from.
Did you read that post??? I’m serious you should. It will totally help you save money and get exactly what you want to grow.
Okay, now that you have read that post lets talk a little about when to plant and when to harvest.
Starting From Seed
When you grow from seed your production window is going to be longer. So you have to plan for that. If you do not have a good seed germinating system (see this blog post about the Five Reasons seeds do not Grow to get an idea of how to germinate seeds) then this can take up to almost a month before any seedlings grow. This adds quite a while to keep something at the perfect temperature and humidity.
Now don’t let me persuade you to only buy starts…I love starting plants from seed. It is very satisfying to see them pop up above the soil surface and grow into plants that can be over 6′ in length.
If you want to start with seed make sure to give yourself the time.
Starting From Starts
Sometimes, Like this year, I love buying in starts. These could be anything from a little cell pack of strawberries to a full gallon or even 5-gallon tomato plant. These are amazing for those who still want to grow produce for their home but do not have them time to dedicate towards little seedlings.
Remember to see our post on how to pick what to grow. There is a segment that talks about where to get your seed starts from depending if you want to go local, big box store or even online.
An amazing home use program is from Grow Veg. This is an online home gardening program that lets you design your home garden and gives you access to a year of food. Grow Veg tells you when to plant the seed and when to harvest. It is all based on your locality and what you like to plant. The entire garden is customizable to your layout letting you incorporate all of the little microclimates in your garden.
This image is my absolute favorite part of the program.
I made an entire list of practically every vegetable you could ever think of. This program provides the time frame of when I should be planting it by seed indoors, outdoors and also when it should be time to harvest. As you can see even with this small little snippet I almost have to produce for my entire year and the list is about 8 pages longer!
When using this program for starts just plant them outdoors when you are given the green bar or the “sow outdoor” indicator.
I will be offering Fall planting schedules in the month of July. Sign up now to have your garden planned for you. Go to our Garden Planner page to fill out our form and to learn more about this service.