A-Z Gardening in Zone 3-4

For the organic gardner struggling in the short season climate


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Old Timey Planting Guides

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In years gone by people planted their crops according to the cycle of the moon, sun and other visual signs. Here are a few of the signs they observed when planting.

Corn and Beans.

Plant corn and beans when elm leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear, when oak leaves are the size of a mouse’s ear, when apple blossoms begin to fall, or when dogwoods are in full bloom.

Lettuce, spinach and cole crops.

Plant lettuce, spinach seeds in the garden and  broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, pac choi, Chinese cabbage etc. seedlings  in the garden, when the lilacs show their first leaves or when daffodils begin to bloom.  See also post,  “Of Cabbages and Kings”.

Tomatoes, early corn, peppers.

Plant tomatoes and peppers plants and early corn, when dogwoods are in peak bloom or when day lilies start to bloom.  See also post, “Tomatoes and Peppers”, on page 2.

Cucumbers and squash.

Plant cucumbers and squash seedlings when lilac flowers fade. See also post, “Squash Anyone?”.

Potatoes

Plant potatoes when the first dandelion blooms. See also post, “One potato, Two Potato”.

Beets and carrots.

Plant beets and carrots when dandelions are blooming.

Peas.

Plant peas when the forsythia blooms, when daffodils begin to bloom or on Good Friday.  See also post, “Peas Please”.

This information gleaned from “The Old Farmers Almanac” and the University of Wisconsin Extension.

Beware,  sudden prolonged warmer than usual weather may cause apples, other fruits and plants to soften early so that they will blossom and then get caught by a frost, which could cause the above signs to be off by a few weeks or more.   Such a hot spell forced my apples and blueberries to bloom too soon last year and they produced little if  any fruit.

A truism in zone 3-4 is never plant your tomatoes or other tender crops before  May 30th, no matter how warm it has been.  More that a few neighbors have not heeded this warning and have lost their tomatoes and tender plants and had to start over again.

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Of Cabbages and Kings

Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, pac choi, are all members of the cole crops, the cabbage family. These seeds can be started indoors in early to mid April. Plant them in six packs, two seeds to a cell in opposite corners. They will germinate faster if placed on a heat source. After they pop, immediately put them outdoors to grow, only bring them in if temperatures at night go into the 20’s. These plants are very frost hardy and will grow stronger stems if grown this way. You will have more robust and compact plants. If grown indoors and kept too hot, they will become very leggy and have weak stems.

Transplant into the garden as soon as they are big enough to handle. Make a row with a hoe, then lay the plants in the row, roots in the ditch with their heads laying out of the ditch. With the hoe cover the roots with soil, making sure the heads are not covered. Water well and watch them grow. This method makes for fast planting of many plants and is easy on the back and knees. Also works well with planting onions plants and potatoes.