FM Cheapskate, share about frugal living on a local radio station. There was a question on how to get a deal on produce and along with other suggestions, she suggested one might plant a garden. (What a GREAT idea! (wink! wink!) :D) Discussion followed as to whether it was too late to plant a garden yet this year and what one could plant. That got me thinking, how would I answer those questions... so here I go.
Is it too late to plant a garden yet this year?
Absolutely NOT! In fact, I was out in the mist and rain planting seeds just yesterday. :)
I went to my trusty NDSU extension website and pulled up their "Average Last Date of Spring Frost & First Fall Frost in North Dakota" page to figure out how many days we could expect yet in our season locally. On average, Fargo's first fall frost (32F night time temp) is September 26 and hard frost (28F) on Oct 2. After counting out the days, we have approximately 100 days of growing season left this year. Remember, these are average dates, so frost could be earlier or later, but it's a great place to start working from. Also, if you are willing to be vigilant about covering your garden, you may be able to extend that an extra week or two, but many of the warm season crops (like tomatoes & peppers) will stop flowering & producing fruit as the day time temps drop as well.
For those of you not local, contact your local county extension to find how long your growing season is. Then you can also sit down with a calendar and count out the days remaining in your growing season. For a generic frame of reference, Fargo is in the hardiness zone 4.
What can one plant yet this year?
The place to start with this question is to write out a list of what produce your family eats or might like to try and then look at the back of seed packets. The back of each packet will list 'Days to Maturity' along with other planting information. There are lots of plants that have been bred for short growing seasons and will list 80 days or less. These are the seeds that you will want to look for. For some veggies, like tomatoes and peppers, our full growing season is not long enough to get much, if any, harvest and those plants need to be started inside during late winter (see this guide for when to start seeds indoors) or purchased from a local garden center. If you are interested in growing these plants you can get great deals on them right now as the garden centers are clearancing them, but check their 'days to maturity' as well and select those that look as sturdy and healthy as possible. Many times end of the season plants produce great, but know that they are often pot bound and stressed and may not survive.
What if you do not have a backyard garden, is there still time?
(This wasn't one of the questions, but I'm sure some of you may be asking it.)
Yes! You could dig up a spot this weekend and plant if you have the time and energy, but you can also plant a few things in flower beds or in pots. Carrots, leaf lettuce or herbs strategically planted are just a couple of ideas for planting right into flower beds or containers without making them look like veggie gardens if you don't want to. I frequently link to creative and frugal planter ideas on my facebook page, so be sure to check The Full Circle Gardener facebook page as well.
If you have an specific questions or ideas for short season planting, leave a comment or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you.
Happy Gardening! :D