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Timing and Tips Through Seasonal Transitions

Moving from Winter to Spring in the garden

As our persistent winter fades into early spring and temperatures warm, we begin to eye warmer season vegetable varieties for our gardens. Now we can't just jump right in and plant ALL of our summer favorites, as many of them require warmer soil temperatures to really thrive. Okra for example, is best planted closer to May. Fortunately, there are still some cool season varieties that you can continue to plant. Consider planting greens such as arugula and swiss chard, and root vegetables such as turnips, beets and radishes. And don't forget, go for the carrot gold! If you've taken one of our recent classes at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, we were discussing the best timing to accomplish planting tomatoes. You may remember that in order to plan accordingly, we're trying to gauge when the last frost will take place. That can be really challenging to do. The average last frost date for Tucson is March 15th but many people use a strategy of planting tomatoes much earlier than that if it seems like the weather is shifting to warm up through mid March.

Tomatoes harvested in late December before our first big freeze in Tucson

Too Cool for Tomatoes? Currently, it's just a bit too cool for comfort. Ideally, we would like our nighttime temperatures to hang around in the 50's. If you do decide to plant tomatoes this early in the season as we've done the past two years, just be keeping an eye on the weather forecast temperatures and be prepared to cover your tomatoes with frost cloth. Covering them even with temperatures under 50 degrees can help make a difference.

For more help on timing those tomatoes just right, utilize our planting calendar that we've created as a free resource for you to access at any point in your gardening journey. Our Annual Planting Calendar is specific to Tucson's climate that categorizes varying growing conditions with 45 different plant varieties for planning out your vegetable garden.

Wondering how to plant? We Can Help You.

If you're craving more planting advice, refer to our resource, Investing In Your Garden. It will guide you through spacing and planting, as well as harvesting strategies so you can get higher production out of your garden.

Transplants Have you been growing your own transplants? You're probably excited to get them into the soil. But, make sure you harden off those plants first! Hardening off means to gradually introduce them to the outdoors for several hours each day and increasing that amount of time the are outside each day for a week before planting them in the garden. This is especially important if we are still experiencing cold nighttime temperatures. I you want to lighten your work load of carrying plants in and out every day, consider using a cold frame to make this process easier. A cold frame is basically a mini greenhouse for hardening off transplants. This one we designed has a lid that automatically opens and closes based on outside temperatures! We hope these tips get you off to a great start this year, Happy Gardening!

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