Gardening Tips
 
Succession gardening is a super way to have fresh lettuce, spinach, peas and other varieties of produce throughout the growing season.  Scroll down to learn more about succession planting, hardiness zones, hardening off, seed storage, pollination and phenology. Additional gardening tips can be found on our 'Starting from Seed' and 'Refer a Friend' pages.

                 DETAILED SOWING INSTRUCTIONS WILL BE INCLUDED ON EACH SEED PACKET.

     If you are having trouble getting some of your seeds to germinate, try these tips listed below.

Tip: Soaking Seeds
Some seeds germinate best
when they have been soaking
in water immediately before
sowing. Tepid water is best but
make sure that they don't soak
for more than 24 hours. Then
sow the seeds immediately by
following sowing instructions
on the seed packet.

Tip: Seed Nicking/Scarification
Hard seed coats may need
to be 'nicked' or 'scared'
to help the seed germinate.
Using fingernail clippers to
create a small hole in the shell
or using a fingernail file to
file down or scar the shell
can help the seed
germinate better.

Tip: Pre-chill/Stratify or Freeze
Some seeds need to 'chill'
before they will germinate. This
can be done by placing the seeds
in a damp paper towel and placing
them in the fridge for the appropriate
time before sowing. Seeds that need
a 'freezing' environment are
best sown outside in the fall by
allowing nature to help.

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November Gardening Tips:
 

Make good use of the fallen leaves in your yard by shredding them with a lawn mower and using them as mulch for perennials or vegetable garden, or add them to the compost pile. Wait to spread winter mulch over your perennials beds until after the soil has frozen (when daytime temperatures don’t usually rise above 32°F). Winter mulch actually keeps the ground frozen all winter so your plants aren’t damaged by freezing-and-thawing cycles. Another way to prevent this freezing-and-thawing damage that occurs to the southwest side of trees is by wrapping the trunk with gardening tape/wrap which can be found at your local gardening center. The tape/wrap should be removed in the late spring. Get a jump start on next year’s vegetable garden by tilling it now (remember to add some of those shredded leaves or weed-less grass clippings). This way you can start planting as soon as the soil dries enough to be worked in spring. Tilling now can also help by stopping many insects from overwintering. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

US Freeze Dates by State

USDA Hardiness Zone (click here)

Find Local Temperature Averages/Records (click here)

   
Hardiness Zones and Frost Dates
     
Seeds will germinate and grow when their environment will allow, most needing heat, moisture, sunlight and oxygen. Seed germination success will come when the natural environmental conditions are reproduced.  Once a seed is planted (or sown), the 'window of opportunity' that it has to germinate, develop into a plant and then produce fruit can be identified by the information below.  Some plants can develop in a short time where others need a longer growing period (ex: peas need 50-60 est. days where tomatoes need an est. 90-110 days). 

Once the USDA Hardiness Zone is determined, identify when the last (spring) frost date and first (autumn) frost date is expected in your area.  Then you can determine when to plant the seeds or seedlings if started indoors, without the threat of frost damage.  The dates below are complied by the United States Department of Agriculture and are classified into long, medium and short growing seasons.

A long growing season would be found in zones 8 & 9
(Feb 15th - Mar 15th to Nov 15th - Dec 15th)

A medium growing season would be found in zones 5, 6 & 7
(April 15th to October 15th)

A short growing season would be found in zones 3 & 4
(May 15th to September 15th)

USDA Zone     Est. Last Frost Date        Est. First Frost Date          Min. # of frost free days
1*................June 15........................July 15........................30*days
2..................May 15.........................August 15....................90 days
3..................May 15.........................September 15...............120 days
4..................May 15.........................September 15...............120 days
5..................May 15.........................October 15...................180 days
6..................April 15........................October 15...................180 days
7..................April 15........................October 15...................180 days
8..................March 15......................November 15.................240 days
9..................February 15..................December 15.................300 days
10................January31 or before.......December 15.................315 days
11................Zone 11 has no frost..........................................365 days

Zone 1 has year-round frost potential.

 

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Succession Planting
   
Succession Planting is where you plant certain seeds multiple times during the year. The first planting grows and provides produce while the second and even third planting is growing or beginning to sprout. An example: plant the first patch of corn seeds then two weeks later, plant the second patch of corn seed in an adjacent area to the first.  As the corn seed is used from the first patch, the second patch is growing and should be ready to harvest after all the corn has been picked from the first patch.  Another example: plant the first batch of lettuce, spinach, peas early in the spring and the re-plant in mid to late summer for a second crop to eat during the fall. 

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Hardening-Off

      

Once seeds have germinated and the second or third set of leaves have appeared on the plant, the process of 'hardening-off' (acclimatization) is necessary for the seedling to survive the transplant from the container to your garden. This process is gradual and should take no less than two weeks. A 'cold-frame' is ideal for this purpose where you can place the seedling inside and allow the temperature to fluctuate while providing protection for the plant.  The idea is to slowly replicate the environment that the thriving plant will be permanently re-located to. As the plant continues to grow it will be less likely to suffer transplant shock if the 'hardening-off' period is long enough.

     

To lower the temperature in a 'cold-frame', slightly prop open the lid then use a thermometer to monitor.  Closing the lid will allow the temperature inside to increase. For the first few days, the temperature should not be reduced by more than 5-10 degrees from the temperature of which the plants are accustom. After this period, slowly reduce the temperature by an additional 2-5 degrees every few days until it matches the temperature outside.  The plant will then be ready for transplant.  For more information about 'cold-frames', click on our 'Recommended books/Articles' page and scroll down.

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Seed Storage & Pollination

   

All seeds have a limited shelf life. This can range from one year (Parsnips) to ten years (Tomatoes). To save unused seeds, keep them in their paper envelope (helps to identify them later) and place them in a cool, and most importantly, dry location. By placing them in a plastic bag or glass jar with a rubber seal, they can be safely stored in a refrigerator. For long term storage, seeds can be frozen. When you are again ready to sow the seeds, test them by placing a few seeds in a damp paper towel and then into a plastic bag.  Set them in a warm location checking each day to make sure the paper towel remains moist. Soon the seeds will sprout, an estimate of the percentage of germination can be made for the remaining seeds in the envelope.

 

 
 
 
 

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When to Plant  

   

How do you know when to plant what? The science of Phenology can be very helpful, although there are no absolute guarantees. Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these cycles can be used as signals that let us know when the weather and climate are progressing. From these natural occurances, we can gauge when to plant seeds or transplant seedlings. The list below are can help:

    

Plant peas ------ when forsythia and daffodils are blooming

   

Plant potatoes ------ when 1st dandelions bloom

  

Plant beets, carrots, cole crops (broccoili), lettuce, spinach ------ when lilac has first leaves

    

Plant beans, cucumbers, squash ------ when lilac is in full bloom

    

Plant tomatoes ------ when lily-of-the-valley are in full bloom

     

Transplant eggplant, melon, peppers ------ when irises bloom

    

Plant corn ------ when apple blossoms start to fall from tree

    

Seed fall cabbage and broccoli ------ when catalpas and mockoranges bloom

    

Plant cool season flowers (pansies, snapdragons) ----- when aspen and chokecherry trees leaf out

Wisconsin Horticulture - Cooperative Extension

National Gardening Association

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