Your Garden Calendar

Even within the same state, climates are different. For example, Flagstaff, Arizona has about a 2-month growing season due to the altitude (7,000+ feet). During the summer it rarely gets above 82 degrees F and the daily rain during the monsoon season (between Independence Day and Labor Day) is cold and often contains ice pellets. Winters are cold and harsh, and they’ve seen blizzard conditions in early June. We’ve lived there, we know! Two hours south (and 5,000 feet lower) in Phoenix you can grow vegetables pretty much year-round and 112 degree temperatures during the summer are fairly common. Winter there means maybe having to put on a pair of socks or long pants for a couple weeks.

So, a month-by-month calendar would be useless for us to offer our readers here. Instead, we’ve provided a general seasonal outline for you to use as a guide when planning your garden activities for your specific climate.

Spring

• Early Spring: 6-8 weeks before the projected last frost date, start planting seeds indoors. Till your winter cover crops under and start preparing your garden beds; soil test and amend as needed. Harden off and plant early vegetable seedlings outdoors and plant the last of any container crops. Prune woody herbs and fruit bushes/trees.

• Early-Mid Spring: Protect fruit blossoms from frost and mound potatoes to protect the leaves from frost.

• Mid-Late Spring: Harden off and transplant seedlings. Place your drip tape or soaker hoses (once the frost danger is gone); test for leaks and repair as needed.

• Late Spring: Harvest quick-growing early vegetables. Start succession planting of summer crops. Mulch your fruit bushes and trees; put a clean layer of straw beneath strawberry plants to keep the fruit out of the soil. Sow winter herbs.

• All Spring: Keep weeds under control; protect your plants from pests; fertilize, mulch, and water generously as needed.

Summer

• Early Summer: Harvest slower-growing early vegetables and succession plant with fall or winter crops. Thin seedlings that were sown outdoors. Make sure salad fixins are protected from blazing heat and sun, and continue succession planting so that you spread your salads over the summer. Build or secure existing trellises to support climbing crops. Prune any outrageous fruit bush/tree growth.

• Mid-Summer: Continue making sure salad fixins get plenty of water. Support fruit trees/bushes that appear to be overly heavy with fruit. Succession plant late summer, fall, or winter crops. Continue to mound potatoes and snip off blossoms – you want the energy going into potato production, not flowering. Snip off new blossoms on your tomatoes and summer squash/zucchini plants; you want the energy going into the existing tomatoes, squash, and zucchini, not into producing more blossoms at this point. Cut herbs for drying.

• Late Summer: Thin or harvest heavily-laden fruit bushes/trees. Harvest seeds and dig up seed potatoes to dry in sun. Pull up garlic, onions, and shallots and allow to ripen in sun. Succession plant fall or winter crops. Start interplanting winter cover crops. Cut back blackberry and raspberry canes after harvesting.

• All Summer: keep weeds under control; protect your plants from pests; fertilize as needed, water generously, and thickly mulch for water retention.

Fall

• Early Fall: Continue harvesting late summer fruit, vegetables, and seeds as they ripen. Continue mounding potatoes and snipping off any flowers. Trim leaves from tomatoes to expose the fruits to the sun. Snip off strawberry runners. Continue succession planting for late fall and winter crops.

• Mid-Fall: Continue harvesting fruits, vegetables, and seeds as they ripen. Harvest beans and peas and either remove the plants to the compost pile and plant a winter cover crop, or till the plants under to decompose and feed the soil all winter. Thin onion and turnip crops. Mound leeks and celery. Harvest potatoes. Prune fruit bushes/trees. Plant hardy winter herbs, and move any container herbs into a protected area to avoid killing frosts. Plant blackberries or raspberries.

• Late Fall: Continue mounding or harvest leeks and celery. Thickly mulch fall and winter harvest crops to protect from cold and frost. Continue planting winter cover crops as you harvest the last of the fall crops. Plant new fruit trees and prune older ones for the winter. Protect drip tape or soaker hoses from freezing damage by removing, cleaning, and storing for the winter; hand water remaining crops as needed. Protect trellises from the elements, or disassemble, clean, and store for the winter.

• All Fall: Keep weeds under control; protect your plants from pests; thickly mulch, and water as needed.

Winter

• Early Winter: Examine stored crops for damage or disease; remove sprouting potatoes to a separate container, spaced apart. Complete your fruit bush/tree pruning and protect your newly planted trees from frost. If not replanting with your own harvested seeds, start planning and ordering next year’s seeds during this time. Remove any suckers from blackberry and raspberry plants.

• Mid-Winter: Put all non-diseased garden waste in the compost pile. Start early vegetable seeds indoors. Start potatoes outdoors in a frost-free enclosure (a shed or a cold frame are ideal). Prune hardier trees and plant container trees; cover soil with rotted manure fertilizer.

• Late Winter: Harvest the last of the winter crops (i.e. those leeks and celery you’ve been protecting) and prepare the beds for early spring succession planting. Plant early vegetable seeds outdoors for late spring harvest. Continue planting seedlings indoors. Dig rotted manure fertilizer in around fruit bushes/trees. Prune any dead branches off of woody herbs.

• All Winter: Keep weeds under control; protect your plants from pests; thickly mulch, and water as needed.

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