Saturday, March 10, 2018

Spring Forward With Your Gardening By Joyce D’Agostino

It’s March, and for gardeners this means that Spring is quickly approaching. For most of us in the US, we will observe the “spring forward” by setting our clocks an hour of daylight ahead on March 11, 2018 to observe Daylight Savings time. This month the “Vernal Equinox” or the first day of spring also occurs in March on March 20, 2018. 

The spring equinox is especially important for those of us who plant outdoors because it serves as a timeline for those who are planning to have outdoor gardens to start some seeds indoors  or to begin mapping out our garden so we will have the right plant in the right place. 

Here is Colorado, we can have very changeable weather. While we can refer to expected average last frost in the spring or first frost dates in the fall, those should be used as an approximate date. Closely following the weather is important to avoid planting when the weather may not be fully settled.  In the Denver area, often gardeners are told it is safe to plant tender vegetables and flowers outdoors on Mother’s Day, however this is just an estimate and the weather may still not be fully ready. It is often better to wait a week or two longer to be sure that the soil and weather are safely past freezing weather than to lose your valuable plants to an unexpected frost. Using some plant protection as outlined in the garden notes below can also help protect against surprise changes in the weather.

When planning an outdoor garden for the spring through the fall, you must know approximately how many frost free days in your area in order to help you choose plants that develop and mature before that fall frost arrives.

For example, if your region has its last frost on June 1 and first fall frost on October 1, then you have about 4 months or 120 frost free days in your gardening season. This means that you would want to choose plants or seeds where the “days to harvest” allows you to have enough time for the vegetable, fruit or herb to grow and mature before the frost. Days to harvest refers to the approximate amount of days between when you plant your transplant to the expected first mature fruit or vegetable.

So if you enjoy growing tomatoes, and your area has a relatively short growing season, you will need to refer to the seed packet or grower’s information to ensure that you choose a tomato that can grow and produce ripe fruit well before a frost. Also know your USDA hardiness zone number so that you also choose plants that can grow well in your area.

Refer to these garden bulletins for more valuable tips on starting your spring garden: