Sunday, January 30, 2011

Planting Dates

I know that plenty of gardeners time their planting with phases of the moon. Last year, when I looked that up on the online Farmers Almanac, I was happy to see that the "planting by the moon" times coincided with times I had planned to plant, anyway.

That meant I had one less thing to consider as I completed my planting calendar. I will have to look that up again for this year, but it turns out that there are even more planning methods than watching the moon or counting weeks before or after average first/last frost dates.

It shouldn't surprise me, because I plant peas each year when the trout lilies bloom in my yard, but there is a little booklet, "The Seedling Handbook," published in 1968 by the American Guild Garden Book Club, that lists planting times by what's in bloom.

I am assuming that the logic behind this is something along the lines of "plants are smarter about what's going on above and below ground than we are." I could be wrong, but I watch the trout lilies because I think they are a good indicator of soil conditions. Their bloom-time can vary by as much as two weeks from year to year. That means my pea-planting time varies, too.

The booklet was written by Elda Haring and was "prepared for the members of The American Garden Guild Garden City, N.Y." That particular town is not anywhere nearby, so it is not unexpected that some of the plants listed as being among those to watch are not represented in my neighborhood, but some are.

Here is an example:

When these are in full bloom--Chionodoxa luciliae (glory of the snow), trailing arbutus, border forsythia and weeping forsythia, Lindera benzoin (spice bush), and Scilla siberica (Siberian squill)--it is safe to plant beets, cabbage, chard, chervil, Cos, Cress, Endive, Escarole, Kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onion (sets), parsley, parsnips, peas, spinach, radishes, salsify, turnips, and whitloof chicory.

Among the first few thoughts that sprang to my mind, on reading this list was that I'm not sure the Siberian squill and Glory of the snow bloom at the same time around here. Another was that I have a long way to go in terms of exploring all the kinds of veggies that can be grown in a garden. I haven't yet tried kohlrabi, for example, or endive, or escarole, or whitloof chicory . . .

Since I already watch for the trout lilies, it shouldn't be too hard to watch what else is blooming as I plant my garden. It will be fun to put together a similar set of planting times for my yard!


  1. I'll have to remember that about watching for the forsythia to be in bloom (I'm not sure I know the difference between border and weeping though) to plant chard/lettuce/spinach. I didn't get them planted in time last year and got very little edible before it all bolted.

    What should I be watching for to plant potatoes - I never managed to get those planted in the late winter/spring either and the ones I planted in the fall were too late and were tiny.

  2. Owlfan, according to the book, potatoes can be planted when these are in full bloom:

    flowering quince, bleeding heart, saucer magnolia, and grape hyacinth.

    There were actually more flowering plants in the list, but these are plants that I know are grown in and around Atlanta.

    Both in my yard and at the plant-a-row-for-the-hungry garden here in Kennesaw, we try to get the seed potatoes planted in mid-March. Your garden is far enough south of mine that you might want to aim for the first week of March. Let me know how it goes!

  3. I have always wanted to plant more in tune with nature's cycles, but yet it seems that by late spring, I'm already behind LOL!

  4. Thanks. I'll try to get the potatoes planted this year. It makes more sense to be looking for other plants in bloom. Last year it just was too wet and cold to get into the garden when I thought I should be planting them - hope it works better this year.


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