Growing a successful garden in the North Country with expert help

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — If you’re thinking of planting a garden this year, joing the club; the gardening industry exploded during the pandemic. 

However, if you are new to gardening in the North Country, there are many factors growers should consider before simply planting in the ground.

The first is the North Country’s plant hardiness zone. This ranges across the region from 3b to 5a, which determines the extreme minimum temperatures.

Map: United State Department of Agriculture

According to Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Garden Coordinator Susan Gwise, the plant hardiness zones in the North Country shorten the regions growing season.

“Because our temperatures are colder, our growing season is shorter than in other parts of the country,” stated Gwise. “But we have about an average of 160 days. So, that’s the period, the average period of time between the last spring frost and the first fall frost.”

Wondering when vegetables can be planted in the ground? It depends on the plant. Currently, in early May, growers can plant cold season plants such as spinach and radishes. Warm season plants come next which include beans and shouldn’t be planted until mid-May.

Lastly, transplants, or cold sensitive plants such as tomatoes or peppers should wait to be planted until Memorial Day or early June. When ready to transplant, Gwise stated that an important step to complete is “hardening” the plant to its new environment.

“Whether you start them inside or whether you buy them from a store, you can’t just come home and plop them in the garden,” shared Gwise. “They need to be hardened off. They need to be gradually introduced to the outdoor environment. Otherwise, you know, again, you’re going to set them back or possibly kill them.”

If you are new to gardening, one important thing to remember is to start small.

According to Gwise, North Country growers starting “too big,” can be defeating as it is a big commitment.

“Don’t prepare a huge area. A garden the size of about 10 x 10 is perfect to start with. And if you don’t have a space to garden in the ground, you can do do container gardening. Most vegetables will do very well in containers. So that’s an option too, and that’s a good way for people to start because then you’re not making a huge commitment,” expressed Gwise.

For more on growing in specific zones, visit the USDA Plant Hardiness website.

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