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April 14, 2022 6 min read

Hello Gardener,

Spring is here, everything is starting to bloom and grow. Now is the perfect time to start a garden and to enjoy the fruits and vegetables of your labor. There is a lot of timing and planning that goes into starting a garden, but we took the stress out of it. Here is some information for understanding what zone you are in to help figure out which plants, flowers or vegetables will succeed in your region. We want you and your garden to thrive!

What is a growing zone? 

Growing zones are also referred to as planting zones. Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location.

 planting zone hardiness map  

They were developed to help gardeners figure out which plants, flowers or vegetables will do best in a specific region. Zones help you know what plants are most likely able to withstand winter conditions. But they are useful for more than just knowing what to plant. Zones also help to determine when to plant, too. To find out what zone you are in and the best time to start your garden check out  https://www.almanac.com/gardening/planting-calendar

What zone are you in? 

Portland Oregon is located in zone 8. Planting Zone 8 is one of the warmest plant hardiness zones with mild winters and long hot summers. Extending up the west coast and covering a large portion of the United States. Of course, temperature and frost play a big factor on when to transplant seedlings. Knowing the last frost date and a plant’s standard frost guidelines is important. Knowing when to move seedlings outside is critical to a plant’s success. Some seedlings will grow quickly but may not be ready to move outside. A better way than size to tell if a plant is mature enough to be transplanted is by the number of true leaves it has. If a seedling has between 3 and 4 true leaves, it is likely ready.

Start Seedlings indoors and in the beginning of April until it is time to transplant outside.  

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What is a frost date?

A frost date is the first and last average day or range of days a frost is usually experienced in a zone. These are important to know, as some plants will not tolerate extreme cold from a frost. Keep frost dates in mind when deciding when to plant to ensure you have a garden that grows and produces as much as possible.

How do you acclimate seedlings for outdoor conditions? 

“Hardening off” is the process of gradually acclimatizing indoor-sown plants to outdoor conditions. For most plants, begin hardening off a week before the final frost date for your area. Be sure to check your zone to find out when your last frost date will be to know when it is safe to plant sensitive seedlings outside. Water plants before they go outside. Place them into your sheltered spot for just two hours on the first day. The next day, leave them out for two more hours, with perhaps an hour’s direct sunshine in the morning. Gradually increase the length of outdoor time and direct sunshine over one to two weeks. You can then leave them out overnight if there’s no danger of frost.

When should you transplant seedlings? 🌱

One of the most important components to starting plants from seeds is timing. Understanding when to move seedlings outside is critical to a plant’s success. Some seedlings will grow quickly but may not be ready to move outside. A better way than size to tell if a plant is mature enough to be transplanted is by the number of true leaves it has. If a seedling has between 3 and 4 true leaves, it is likely ready. Note that the very first leaves to grow are not what you’re looking for. When seedlings have grown too large for their seed trays or starter pots, it's time to transplant. 

Of course, temperature and frost play a big factor on when to transplant seedlings. The last frost date and a plant’s standard frost guidelines is important.

Zone 8 has an average minimum temperature of 10 to 20 degrees F. Because of the mild winters and warm summers, the Zone 8 growing calendar will leave you with plenty of options for your vegetable and flower garden. Try your hand at growing watermelon to enjoy during the summer months and pumpkins for Fall harvest. In Zone 8 the options are limitless.

How do you protect your plants from frost? 

Planting too early can create a crisis when a cold snap threatens. Temperatures in the low 30s Fahrenheit can kill vegetable crops such as tomatoes, peppers and herbs.  Annual plants that fruit and flower in warm temperatures are most sensitive to cold weather. Helping your seedlings and plants survive the big chill isn't impossible, but it does require some preparation. Cover your outdoor plants with hay, wood mulch or sheets to blanket them from a frost. The easiest cold-protection plan is to move plants out of harm's way. This works with seedlings and potted plants. Bring them inside a garage a shed or a cover patio area. This acts like insulation, keeping warm air from the ground around the plant. The warmth may be enough to keep a plant from freezing during a short cold snap. 

 

tea herb in planter pots

 

Which plants can withstand low temperatures? 

Some edible plants are actually quite hardy, such as peas, lettuce, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, radish, and cabbage, These cool-season vegetables generally withstand temperatures as low as 26˚F. Even hardier crops such as beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, collards, kale, parsley, and spinach can shake off temperatures in the low 20s. A few cold-tolerant flowers like pansies and sweet alyssum don't mind frosty weather, either.

Which Seeds Should Be Started Indoors?

Not all vegetables should be started indoors! Most are better off being started directly in the garden called direct-sown . The crops that should be started indoors are those that are particularly susceptible to cold temperatures or that have a very long growing season and need a head start. These include tender vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, as well as crops with a long growing season, like broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts. 

Most other crops do best when sown directly into the garden soil. Root crops, including carrots, radishes, and beets, are especially well-suited to being started directly in the garden, since they do not like having their roots disturbed after planting. The same is true for squash and watermelon, though care must be taken to plant them when the soil is warm enough. 

Can I grow plants indoors in the winter? 

Gardening inside during winter is a great way for providing your family with fresh produce and herbs. The first, and most important, step is to understand which crops are best adapted to indoor growing. Then it’s a matter of creating the right conditions for each. If you have them growing in a pot outdoors already, simply reposition them inside and continue providing water and fertilizer. If you have a sunny window, some of the crops below are fairly effortless to grow indoors in winter. Some plants will need supplemental grow lights in order to thrive, as winter days are too short for many species to photosynthesize sufficiently. Basil, oregano, sage, lavender, mint, thyme, rosemary, dill, and other herbs are among the easiest edibles to grow indoors. Of these, mint is the most shade tolerant, though it still needs a few hours of direct light each day to thrive. Basil and dill have the highest heat requirements, so you’ll want to make sure they’re located in a room that stays above 60 degrees at night. Lettuces, arugula, spinach, kale, and other leafy greens are also easy to grow indoors, though you’ll have more success harvesting them as baby greens, rather than trying to grow them to maturity.  

Check out our collection of garden kits to start your planting today! 

 tea herb starters

References: 

https://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/garden-care/how-to-protect-plants-from-frost/

https://gilmour.com/planting-calendar-zone-8

https://bioadvanced.com/cold-snap-care

https://www.almanac.com/gardening/planting-calendar/zipcode/97222

https://www.almanac.com/video/how-harden-plants

https://www.pdxmonthly.com/home-and-real-estate/2012/01/usda-hardiness-maps-january-2012 

https://modernfarmer.com/2018/10/8-indoor-crops-for-winter-gardening/ 

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/hpgen/plant-an-indoor-winter-garden.htm


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