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Check with your local Master Gardeners or cooperative extension to find out the first and last frost dates in your area. Or visit the federal government’s National Climatic Data Center online (see Regional Resources, this page) for a handy map of every county in the United States and a chart that lays out the dates in spring and fall when there is a 50, 20, or 10 percent chance that frost will occur. The National Weather Service typically releases a frost advisory when temperatures are expected to fall between 32 and 35 degrees F and remain there for several hours.
If you purchase seedlings at a nursery or plant sale, ask if they were hardened off. Direct-Sowing Basics Direct-sowing means planting seeds right into the garden’s soil. The size of a seed determines how deep it can be sown. Every seed contains a food supply that feeds it as it germinates—the larger the seed, the bigger the food supply and the deeper it may be sown. Follow the guidelines on the seed packet when determining how deep to sow. DIRECT-SOWING LARGE SEEDS When sowing large seeds, like peas or sunflowers, dig a furrow, a shallow trench in the soil, at the depth you’d like to sow the seed.
HOT COMPOSTING The microbes found in compost give off energy as they work, and if a compost pile is large enough, it will trap the heat, accelerating the decomposition process (thus the name hot composting). Hot composting can kill weed seeds, pest eggs, and diseases, but it’s a good idea to leave plants with problems out of compost piles just in case. 1. Gather enough material to create a compost pile that has a base at least 3 feet square and is 3 feet tall. As you build the pile, put in one pitchforkful of green material and three of brown.