The Vegetable Garden

Zones 5-6 Garden Calendar and Monthly Garden Tips

Monthly To-Do List To Keep You On-Track All Year With Your Garden Activities For Zones 5-6

January:

  • Start a garden record book now, allowing space to record the dates of first and last frosts, sowing seeds, planting, transplanting, time of bloom, first fruits, fertilizing, problems with pests, and other information. Over a period of years, this will be an invaluable record.
  • Browse seed catalogs and start planning this years garden.
  • Start cool season plants in greenhouse or warm southern window.
  • Plan vegetable garden; remember to rotate crops.
  • Plow or till garden in the fall or winter to reduce populations of grasshoppers and harlequin bugs.

February:

  • Browse seed catalogs and start planning this years garden.
  • Order from catalogs or pickup seeds local garden shop.
  • Start more cool season plants in greenhouse or warm southern window.

March:

  • Plant blueberries, strawberries and grapes.
  • Mulch strawberries with pine straw as soon as they start blooming.
  • Start seeds of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other warm-season veggies. Also start cole crops like broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese greens, cabbage and kohlrabi, as well as other greens.
  • If you have a frost-free cold frame, plant early spinach, lettuce and other hardy greens. Place onions and tomatoes started in February in a frost-free cold frame by mid-month.
  • It's traditional to plant peas and taters on St. Patrick's Day, but if your garden soil feels like Play-Doh, wait until later to plant [if it's like chocolate cake, go ahead !]
  • Fertilize the garden as the soil is being prepared for planting. unless directed otherwise by a soil test. Soil samples can be taken to your county extension office to be analyzed.

April:

  • This is the big month for planting vegetables, however if planted too early, frost will kill your plants unless you are prepared to protect them on those cold nights.
  • Stake tomatoes or provide cages to surround them.
  • Plants started indoors in March or bought at your local market, should be hardened off outdoors in cold frames before being transplanted into the garden .
  • Peppers and eggplants take 8 to 10 weeks to reach transplant size, and should be set out sometime around Memorial Day!
  • Spread manure or compost and till the soil. Get potatoes, peas and onions planted as soon as the soil is dry enough to work. Sow lettuce, radishes, spinach and other cool-season greens.
  • Start a second round of the cabbage family vegetables indoors under lights or in the cold frame.
  • Small , sturdy seedlings raised under fluorescent lights for 12 to 16 hours per day will take off rapidly once planted outside in warmer weather.
  • Start cucumber, cantaloupe, summer squash, and watermelon seeds indoors in peat pots. It is necessary to start the vining vegetables in peat pots because they do not transplant well when the roots are disturbed.
  • Any tender crops planted or tomato transplants set out at this time may be subject to late frost.
  • Asparagus and rhubarb harvests begin.
  • Keep your hoe sharp! Don't allow weeds to get an early start in your garden.

May:

  • Until mid-month continue planting lettuce, onions, spinach, beets, chard, carrots, parsnips, radishes, turnips, shallots, chives and parsley.
  • Start squash, cucumbers, melons and okra indoors. Transplant in the garden when all danger of frost is past.
  • When the soil warms to 60 degrees F. transplant tomatoes, peppers, and sweet potatoes outdoors; harden them off first and be prepared to protect the tender transplants from frost with plastic jugs with the bottoms cut out. Stake the tomato plants as you transplant to prevent root damage.
  • Keep potatoes well mulched. Keep in mind potatoes do not grow deeper in the soil then they are planted, the new potatoes start forming on the stem node nearest the seed potato and extends upward toward the soil surface. This is the reason for hilling or mulching.
  • Toward the latter part of the month it is safe to plant sweet corn. Check the maturity days of the sweet corn and sow seed for early, mid-season and late crops.
  • Direct-sow bush beans, pumpkins and winter squash.
  • Continue harvesting asparagus through-out the month of May.

June:

  • Water more deeply and less often as plants become established.
  • Check plants sales, for bargains and close outs.
  • Pick your fruits and vegetables as they ripen.
  • Keep weeds pulled and mulch in place.
  • Watch for early disease problems and take care of the before they get worse.
  • Plant pumpkins now for Jack-o-lanterns by Halloween.
  • Extend the harvest of corn and beans with repeated plantings.
  • When the soil is warm, it is time to mulch, mulch, mulch. If you didn't stake your tomatoes, use cages or mulch. Mulch helps maintain an even moisture level which helps prevent blossom-end rot.
  • Leggy green beans, squash and cabbage can be helped by hilling soil up around the stems.
  • Discontinue cutting asparagus when the spears become thin. Your asparagus will now enjoy a thorough weeding, an application of 12-12-12 fertilizer at 2 pounds per 100 square feet, water well, and apply a new layer of mulch to conserve moisture.
  • As soon as cucumbers and squash start to vine it is time to start spraying for cucumber beetles and squash vine bores.
  • Mid June is time to start your seedlings of broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage for your fall garden.
  • Flea beetles attack green beans nearly as soon as they emerge. Stand by with a duster of Sevin™.

July - August

  • Water early in the day so that the leaves will be dry by evening.
  • Spend a few minutes every morning deadheading~pinching off spent flowers of plants.
  • Keep your eyes open for insects, and disease problems Early detection is important.
  • Keep mulching to help retain moisture and reduce weeds.
  • For best quality harvest vegetables in the cool of the morning or later in the evening. Avoid the heat of the day.
  • Home-grown tomatoes are the crop of the month. Plants need regular watering. Vegetables mature quickly when the weather is hot so check the garden daily.
  • Harvest potatoes when the tops turn yellow and die.
  • Keep cukes well watered. Drought conditions will cause bitter fruit.
  • Sweet corn is ripe when the silks turn brown.
  • Late July or early August set out broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower transplants for the fall garden. Also sow seed of collards, kale, sweet corn, summer squash, carrots, beets and turnips for the fall garden. Buy the short season varieties for best results.

 

September:

  • Gather leaves for composting. Mix green and dry materials and alternate with thin layers of soil or compost for more rapid decomposition.
  • Now is the time to reap the harvest of the fall garden.
  • Zone 5 has a fast approaching frost date, with this in mind, now is the time to think about winter storage for the those vegetables you managed to grow in the garden . Different vegetables need different conditions to insure good results.
  • Buckwheat is a good source of green manure, but should be turned under before it sets seeds. Turnips and beets are also good sources of green manure.
  • Summer's tomatoes are finishing up. Some gardeners pick the leaves off the tomato plants to expose the tomatoes to a bit more sun, or cut the tops out of the tomato vines to help ripen the existing tomatoes. Cover if an early frost should happens, as we usually have several weeks of good weather after the first frost.
  • Let winter squash stay on the vines as long as possible for long keeping. Wait until the vines die back or there is danger of frost. Check by pressing with your thumbnail, if the skin is easily broken they are not fully matured and may not keep well. When you harvest leave two to three inches of stem on the squash. Allow them to cure in a warm, dry, well ventilated place for a couple of weeks before placing them in storage, this will allow them to dry and harden their shell. Never wash them until just before using and never carry squash or pumpkins by the stem.
  • Sow hardy spinach and kale in a cold frame.

October:

  • Cover sensitive plants with blankets, sheets or protective cloths. Remove next morning.
  • Keep gathering leaves. You can never have enough compost, mulch or organic matter in the soil.
  • Plant late-season purchasers of perennials or move and rearrange old ones to improve your planting plan. Group plants according to water needs as well as sun requirements
  • Harvest late season crops and store for winter consumption.

November:

  • Thin lettuce and spinach.
  • Mulch crops you want to "hold" in the ground with straw.
  • Harvest frost sweetened Brussels sprouts, carrots. parsnips, cabbage and kale.

 

December:

  • Send for seed catalogs.
  • Mulch perennials shrub and fruit bearing garden plants.
  • Clean up dead remains of last years garden.
  • Start a compost pile with leaves and garden remains.
  • Clean and oil garden tools.