11 April 2012

Spring Planting in U.S. Zone 7 - It's Here!




Spring weather this year is perfect for getting an early start on a gorgeous summer garden. Seeds and seedlings can be planted now. Many seedlings are available at garden centers and produce stands and with the farmer’s markets opening, we can purchase even more varieties.

Seeds can be safely started outside. I prefer to start them in containers to prevent them from washing away but many gardeners just plant directly into prepared beds.




Seed packets provide the basic information you need about seed planting depth and thinning distances. Temperature requirements of seeds to germinate: Alyssum 70, Asclepias 75, Aster 70, Basil 60-70, Broccoli 70, Catnip 60, Celosia 70, Cleome 70, Coleus 65, Cosmos 70, Cucumber 85, Dianthus 70, Eggplant 70, Geranium 70, Larkspur 55, Lettuce 70, Marigold 70, Melon 85, Pansy 65, Phlox 65, Poppy 55, Squash 85, Thyme 55, Tithonia 70, Tomato 80, Verbena 75, Watermelon 85 and Zinnia 70.









It is too late to plant Larkspur, Pansy, Phlox and Coleus from seed unless you can keep them cool. It is not quite warm enough to start tomato, pepper and cucumber seeds unless you give them artificial heat or use a cold frame.


There is a website with germination requirements listed for just about everything a person would want to plant. Go to http://tomclothier.hort.net and search the categories of Perennial, Annual/biennial, Penstemon, and Tree/Shrub, plus articles about soil temperature, soil less mixes to make at home, damping off virus, seed viability, etc.


The instructions on seed packs are generic and consider areas of the country that do not have our heat and humidity. A full-sun flower or vegetable bed in Detroit, Denver and Seattle does not resemble the conditions of a full-sun bed in Memphis, Muskogee or Dallas.


We shade our tomatoes in August and plant our Dianthus where it receives afternoon protection. The Extension office of each state in the U.S. has developed lists of garden plants for the local weather and conditions.


All states’ fact sheets are provided at the USDA’s site http://www.ers.usda.gov/statefacts where you can click on any state.



The OK vegetable variety and timing fact sheets are at http://tinyurl.com/7t9eqkh and http://tinyurl.com/7jj5xeq (Good for us, though it is slightly slanted to warmer than Muskogee’s Stillwater-weather)


We have the green light to plant corn, peppers, and summer squash, according to Andy Qualls’ newsletter. Qualls says to wait to plant watermelon and cantaloupe or start seeds in containers.



Qualls also said, “For those that planted tomatoes last year and didn’t get any, don’t be discouraged, you probably didn’t do anything wrong. If you planted late April or early May, the temperatures went from too cool to over 95 degrees. Tomatoes will not set fruit when daytime temperatures get over 95 which was all of May, June, July, August and part of September last year. If you kept them alive you got good tomatoes in September and October. I covered several of my plants with frost blanket and had tomatoes until after Thanksgiving.


Soil testing is worth the $10 whether for gardens or pastures, hay or other crops. With fertilizer prices where they are it may be the difference in a failed crop or bumper crop or may save hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on what you are growing.”


To receive Andy’s email newsletter from the Muskogee County Conservation District, send an email to Andrew.Qualls@ok.nacdnet.net and ask to be added.


The Conservation District’s plant sale is May 1 at the district office, 3001 Azalea Park DR. (Hwy 69 and Shawnee Bypass). Qualls grows most of the plants at his farm. This year’s list includes new varieties of Thornless Blackberry, seedless grape, blueberries and ornamentals.


All the photos are from our garden.

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