Thursday, March 27, 2014

Getting the Garden Ready for Cold Weather Vegetables Like Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts

The other day I received this question from Brenda, a fellow vegetable gardener:
So here in Ohio we have had a wickedly cold winter. Today it is still just 27 degrees. When should I think about getting my garden ready for cold weather plants like broccoli and brussels sprouts?
You should be tending to your soil throughout the year anytime it can be worked.  Adding in compost, vermicompost, organic material and so on.
When trying to figure out when you should start your garden, and I am focusing here on starting seeds indoors, there are two ways that you can figure this out.
The first way is to obtain your growing zone, for those of us that live in the U.S.A., visit the plant hardiness interactive zone map at
Here is the picture of what the zone map looks like.  It has changed in recent recent years, adding more detail. 

I don't have Brenda's zip code, but I do have her state, in this case Ohio.  Ohio has three growing zones associated with it, 5b, 6a and 6b, as shown below.
Now that we know what the zones are, you can match them up on the
First and Last Frost Dates, by Hardiness Zone

That is the first way, however a better way to calculate when your area will be ready for gardening is to visit the NOAA Climatic Data Center and click on your state in the box on the lower left side of the screen.

In this case Brenda would select "Ohio".  After doing so, a new window will open with a PDF labled "Freeze/Frost Occurrence Data" for the state of Ohio.  This PDF will list all of the climate data you have ever wanted, and a lot of data that you never knew existed.

Once you know when the last frost will be in your area, and when frost will hit you again in the fall/winter, planning your garden becomes much easier.  You will know how long your gardening season is.

Once you know the length of your gardening season, you can calculate when to start your seeds indoors.  On the back of your seed packet it will tell you "Days to Maturity" or DOM.  Knowing this will tell you when you should start your seeds indoors so can get a jump start on your seeds to make sure you have enough time to reap a harvest.

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