If you grow only the crops that grow indigenously in your climate zone and stick to these home garden plans, you will not suffer many losses due to climate, nor will you have to protect your plants from the weather. But of course gardeners don’t do this. Quite rightly they like a varied diet so they push their luck, and try to grow the more succulent and tasty crops farther north or south than the plants really want to grow.
This is why an understanding of climates important to the gardener. It tells him when to plant, when to harvest and, perhaps most important, when to protect his plants artificially. Cities are always warmer than the open countryside. The waste heat from houses and all those people contribute toward this. So, if you live in a city or its suburbs, you can plant a little earlier, and enjoy a longer growing season than the gardeners in the countryside nearby.
The period which elapses between the last freeze of the spring and the first freeze of the fall is crucial time for vegetable gardeners. If you want to grow outdoors those plants which are tender – and they include all the crops which are indigenous to warm climates: tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squashes – you can grow them outside only during this period. Except for root crops and brass& all your vegetables should be harvested before the first fall frost.
The vegetable garden planting period of food plants can be measured against the growing period of grass. When the grass in your lawn starts to grow, after the dormant winter period, you can start putting in seed. Grass begins to grow when the soil temperature reaches 43°F (6°C) in the spring. There are certain factors that affect the dates of the first and last freezes. Proximity to the sea, or any deep water, tends to warm air and prevent frost, while altitude generally increases the cold.
Lucky is the gardener whose land gets just the right amount of water naturally from rainfall. Too much winter rain washes the nutrients out of the soil, erodes the soil itself and prevents the gardener from getting out on to the land as early as he would like. Planting green manure crops on vacant vegetable beds in winter prevents erosion and keeps the nutrients in the soil. The garden needs rain in the spring and early summer and not too much rain in midsummer. Most of us have to give nature a hand and either dig irrigation furrows or get out the hose or watering can.
Some sunshine is important for all food-producing plants except mushrooms. Crops like sweet corn, eggplants, peppers, melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, leaches and grapes will not ripen without plenty of sun. In areas which get little sun you can, of course, grow these crops under glass or plastic and, if necessary, provide artificial heat. On the other hand some crops cannot take too much. Sun lettuce plants go to seed and die when summer heat sets in.
Many plants suffer badly in windy positions. As well as the strength of the wind itself there is the problem that wind exaggerates the effect of frost and evaporation. Try to utilize sheltered spots, build windbreaks or green house gardening.