The South Shore is in gardening zone 6b, and the Southcoast and upper Cape Cod in zone 7a. What does that mean? The zone has to do with the number of days of frost that we have in a year. It makes a big difference with which perennials do well in our gardens and less to do with the annual veggies that we grow.
With vegetables and annuals, the biggest thing is our average last frost date. In our case, that can be as late as May 31. Our first frost date as early as October 1. These dates give us an idea of when to plant. (Vegetables with a long growing season do not do well in our area.) With those dates in mind, the calendar below is a general time guide for planting and sowing in your garden.
January: Look over your seed catalogs and dream of what a perfect garden you will have this summer. Start onions from seed inside if you are growing them.
February: Start planning your garden layout. Organize your seeds and fill any holes in your stash. Start peppers from seed indoors from mid-month on. I like to start them on Valentine’s Day.
March: Things are starting to warm up. Peas can be started outside. Tradition is to plant peas on St Patrick’s day. If the ground is still frozen, be patient and seed later. Indoors start tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, greens, herbs, eggplant and tomatillos from seed.
April: Start turning over your beds. Add any fertilizers, compost, and manures to give them time to work into the soil before planting. Pot up the seedlings indoors to give them room to grow. Outside you can direct sow spinach, lettuce, kale, hearty greens. Towards the end of the month potatoes, carrots and other root crops can be planted. Don’t worry about those last frosts.
May: It’s garden time! You can now direct sow squashes, beans, and anything else that hasn’t gotten into the garden yet. Hold off on planting the warm weather starts like tomatoes and peppers until all danger of frost has passed. I put them out about mid-May, but many wait until Memorial Day weekend.
June: You can continue to plant without any problem all month. It isn’t too late at all! Make sure you keep on top of the weeds and watering.
July: Everything is getting bigger. This is a great time for mulching your garden. Mulching around established plants helps keep their feet cool and conserves moisture. It also helps to deter weeds. You can use straw, compost, newspaper, and even wood chips (just don’t let them touch the stems of the plants).
August: Trying to keep up with the garden is a full-time job now. Eat what you can, give away and preserve the excess. Cut back on watering. Your plants will do much better as they are finishing up and getting ready for fall.
September: Garden clean up begins. Remove and burn any diseased plants. Compost everything else.
October: Continue September’s work. Make sure that soil is covered with leaves, compost, manure, straw, or a cover crop like hairy vetch. Soil that is covered will overwinter better and lose fewer nutrients. Plant garlic now. Make sure that it is covered in at least 6 inches of mulch.
November: Take a big sigh and look back fondly on your gardening year.
December: Enjoy the holidays and all the garden gifts you get.