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Planting the Garden

One of the most important elements of success in growing vegetables is planting, or transplanting, each crop at the time or times that are best for the operation in each locality.

Temperatures often differ so much between localities not many miles apart that the best planting dates for some one vegetable may differ by several days or even 2 weeks.

Vegetable crops may be roughly grouped and sown according to their hardiness and their temperature requirements. A rough timetable for planting some of the commoner crops is shown in table 3, based on the frost-free dates in spring and fall. The frost-free date in spring is usually 2 to 3 weeks later than the average date of the last freeze in a locality and is approximately the date that oak trees leaf out.

The gardener naturally wants to make the first planting of each vegetable as early as he can without too much danger of its being damaged by cold. Many vegetables are so hardy to cold that they can be planted a month or more before the average date of the last freeze, or about 6 weeks before the frost-free date.

Furthermore, most, if not all, cold-tolerant crops actually thrive better in cool weather than in hot weather and should not be planted late in the spring in the southern two-thirds of the country where summers are hot. Thus, the gardener must time his planting not only to escape cold but with certain crops also to escape heat. Some vegetables that will not thrive when planted in late spring in areas having rather hot summers may be sown in late summer, however, so that they will make most of their growth in cooler weather.

A gardener anywhere in  the United States can determine his own safe planting dates for different crops by using the maps.

Use maps that show the average dates of the last killing frosts in spring and the average dates of the first killing frosts in fall. They are the dates from which planting times can be determined, and such determinations have been so worked out that any gardener can use them, with only a little trouble, to find out the planting dates for his locality.

For areas in the Plains region that warm up quickly in the spring and are subject to dry weather, very early planting is essential to escape heat and drought. In fact, most of the cool-season crops do not thrive when spring planted in the southern part of the Great Plains and southern Texas.

The recommendations for late plantings and for those in the South for over wintered crops are less exact and less dependable than those for early planting. Factors other than direct temperature effects�summer rainfall, for example, and the severity of diseases and insects�often make success difficult, especially in the Southeast, although some other areas having the same frost dates are more favorable.

A date about halfway between the two shown in table 5 will generally be best, although in most areas fair success can be expected within the entire range of dates shown.

Along the northern half of the Pacific coast, warm-weather crops should not be planted quite so late as the frost date and table would indicate.

Although frost comes late, very cool weather prevails for some time before frost, retarding late growth of crops like sweet corn, lima beans, and tomatoes.

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