Happy Wednesday Garden Soldiers!!  As promised above is a badge that you can proudly display on your blogs or wherever!  Grab the code on my right sidebar!  I’m thinking as soon as we start to grow our own seeds or plant our own starts I will begin a series of picture roundups on my blog.  That way we can all see what we’ve been accomplishing and we can share in our strengths and struggles.  For all of you city dwellers with limited space, I also have some fun posts just for you!  So stay with me as we ALL grow our own food!  Also, for all of you displaying the badge above, I have some fun giveaways coming soon!!

Today, we will learn about zones, frost date and planting calendars.


The Plant Hardiness Zones divide the United States and Canada into 11 areas based on a 10 degree Fahrenheit difference in the average annual minimum temperature.  The United States ranges between zone 2 and zone 10.

As you can tell in the map above, Iowa is zone 5.  This means our extreme lowest temperature will range between -10 and -20.  (Sad, isn’t it, lol!)  So when I’m planting any sort of plant or vegetable, I need to make sure that the plant’s hardiness can withstand the lowest extreme temperature.

Every packet of seed will indicate which zones it can grow in.  For example, I’ve always wanted to grow a fig tree.  However, it’s hardiness zones are 7 – 11.  Clearly not meant for extreme cold weather.  Until I have a greenhouse, no fig trees for me 😉

From the map above, find what zone you live in and memorize it.  It will help you out when your at the nurseries.

Find Your Average Last Spring Frost Date

Some vegetables can withstand frost while others cannot.  Before planting any seed or start you will need to know when your average last spring frost date is for your area.

In Iowa, the last frost that can happen in the Spring is May 15th.  After this date, it’s safe to start planting all spring and summer vegetables.  However, before this, a frost can happen and as some plants are not frost tolerant they will die overnight.

To find your average last spring frost date, visit the National Climatic Data Center, find your state and download the pdf.  This is also an important date to memorize.

Here’s a summary of which crops to plant early, and which ones not to plant until after your last spring frost date:

Very early spring (as soon as the ground can be worked)

  • Onions
  • peas
  • spinach

Early spring

  • lettuce
  • beets
  • carrots
  • radishes
  • dill
  • cilantro
  • cabbage
  • broccoli
  • celery
  • kale
  • potatoes

After last frost date

  • beans
  • corn
  • melons
  • cucumbers
  • squash
  • tomatoes
  • peppers
  • pumpkins
  • eggplant
  • basil

Planting Calendar

So now that you know your zones, your average last frost date, you will need to know when to start seedlings inside if you will be starting from seeds.

For example, In Iowa, our growing season is from May – October.  If I were to directly plant tomato seeds in the garden after my last spring frost date, they wouldn’t have ample time to grow and produce fruit.  Therefore, I need to start them 8 weeks before May 15th.  Obviously, there is still a danger of frost, so I need to start them inside.

Every packet of seed will tell you how many weeks in advance they need to be started before planting them after your average last frost date or if they can be directly sown into the soil.

A great way to start planning what needs to be started indoors and when is to use a Spring Planting Calendar.  An amazing gardening blog that I love to follow is called Skippy’s Vegetable Garden.  She provides us with an amazing online planting calendar where all we need to do is enter our last average spring frost date and the calendar will tell us how many weeks in advance we need to start each vegetable.

To get started click here.

Make sure and print the planting calendar.  You will now have a good estimate on what needs to be started soon.

Remember your seed packets will also tell you how many weeks in advance to start your seeds indoors.

It’s now time to decide what you want to grow this Spring and order those seeds.

Next week we’ll get into spring, summer, and fall plantings.  It’s through gardening and growing our own food that we truly start to understand what it means to eat in season.

Until next week garden soldiers!!

Part 1: Ordering Seed Catalogs
Part 2: Understanding the differences between Heirloom, Hybrid, GMO, and Organic Seeds
Part 3: Planting Zones, Frost Dates, and Planting Calendars
Part 4. Understanding Succession Planting
Part 5. Spring Time is Near! It’s Time to Start Those Seedlings!
Part 6. Growing Seeds Indoors Under Supplemental Lighting
Part 7. Tending your seedlings
Part 8. Methods of Urban Gardening

Diana is a mother of three, proud wife, and humbled daughter of God. She finds the most joy meeting with Jesus in her organic gardens. She is completely blessed to be able to call herself a stay at home mom where she home educates her children, joyfully serves her husband, and cooks nourishing, real food, for her family. She loves connecting with people on facebook, google+, pinterest, and instagram.

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