Get in the (Growing) Zone: When to Plant What in Ohio

If you’re curious about when to plant tomatoes, flowers, and other garden favorites in Ohio, keep reading!

ripening tomatoes in an ohio garden

By

Bridget Houlihan

on

Jan 21, 2021

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Spring is one of the most beautiful times of the year in Ohio. All the plants that have been dormant all winter are just excited to open up their leaves and blooms to welcome the change in temperature. It’s a fun time of year, when locals get back into the routine of tending and caring for their gardens to ensure they’ll enjoy their plants all spring and summer long.

There’s a lot of planning that goes into having a nice garden, and it’s not just something that pops up overnight. You have to know when and where to plant different species so they’ll not only survive--but they’ll thrive in their new home! We thought it would be helpful to put together a guide to help you learn when to plant what around your Ohio home, and enjoy all kinds of beautiful flowers and lush vegetables throughout the upcoming months!

Hardiness zones help determine when it’s time to safely get plants in the ground. Image courtesy of Cleveland Seed Co.

What Growing Zone is Ohio?

Make sure you know what growing zone you’re in before planting

No matter where you live in Ohio, it’s always fun to plant flowers and vegetables in the spring. Watching them grow and develop throughout the summer is an incredibly rewarding experience--whether you have just a small potted container garden, or can go all out and create an elevated garden of your own. But before you start getting out your soil, compost, and gardening tools, it helps to do a little planning beforehand. By the time April rolls around, many Ohio residents are excited for the longer days and (hopefully) increasing temperatures--all clear signs that spring is here to stay.

Most of Ohio resides in the USDA hardiness zone 6a, which means that the lowest temperatures the state faces each winter on average are between minus 5 and minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. This isn’t to say that each and every winter Ohio will experience these extreme lows, it just allows the USDA to put a bottom number on the state so farmers and neighborhood gardeners know what types of plants they can expect to thrive in their area.

There are places in Ohio that are designated a zone 5b, which are lower lying spaces such as the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. These colder areas can have lower average temperatures around minus 15F. The areas of Ohio that are closer to water can also be designated a separate zone, 6b, since places in the Ohio River Valley and along the coast of Lake Erie can experience higher average lows that bottom out around minus 5F. Depending on where you live, your hardiness zone will give you a good idea when the last threat of frost will be in your area. Planting too soon can result in a ruined garden, as later hard frosts can do some serious damage to young and emerging plants. Even though April and early May can be sunny and even start to warm up, it can still be too early to set up your garden-- remember, it’s always better to take the cautious approach when it comes to setting up a garden.

Depending on the vegetable you’re looking to grow, they can be planted as early as late March through late May.

When to Plant Vegetables in Ohio

Depending on the plant, you’ll want to get started when the ground thaws

If you’ve lived long enough in Ohio to see the changing of the seasons, you know the winters can be cold, and the summer can be warm and wet. The spring and fall are beautiful times of the year, and are great for planting. If you’re looking to plant a vegetable garden in the spring to enjoy its bounty all summer long, then you should be aware of when the last of the frosts typically hit your region of Ohio. Look up the records and see when the first and last frosts tend to hit your area.

This is the best starting point, but like all things garden related--it is not full proof. There’s always the possibility of a late spring frost coming in unexpectedly, but by following the trends for previous years, you have as good of a start as you can get. If you do happen to have a later than expected frost, most gardeners recommend protecting young plants with a tarp or sheet, or other covering such as a bottle around each individual plant.

If you’re looking to plant vegetables, first decide what you think you--and your family and friends--will enjoy eating this summer. The last frosts are normally done around the end of April, but watch the temperatures until even late May, and don’t plant until overnight temperatures are consistently higher than 32F. However, there are some vegetables do well in cooler weather, and you can plant cabbages, root vegetables (turnips, parsnips, etc.), broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts as soon as you can dig into the earth. These types of veggies need to come to maturity before the intense heat of summer fully arrives, so plan on getting these into the ground first.

Alternatively, cooler weather crops can be planted later in the summer so you can harvest them before winter. Consider waiting to plant cole crops such as lettuce, cabbage, and broccoli until late June all the way through September.

Many of your favorite summer vegetables have a long growing season--meaning they need the long, warm days of summer to fully ripen, giving you the best crop possible. Wait until the end of May--where there is very little chance of a late frost--to plant tomatoes, peppers, beans, and corn in your garden. Most Ohio gardeners choose to get their vegetable plants as seedlings, or very young plants from their local nursery or even online. Doing this ensures that your plant has already made it past the vulnerable first stages and has started to establish itself. Planting young tomato, pepper, or bean plants you picked up from a green house is a great way to ensure that these plants have gotten the proper soil and nutrition to bring you a bountiful harvest!

Strawberries are easy to plant and will produce fruit throughout the summer.

Can You Plant Fruit in Ohio?

Don’t forget about delicious summer fruit gardens!

While it might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you imagine a summer garden, did you know that in Ohio you can also plant fruit in addition to your favorite summer vegetables? As spring moves into summer, one of the best parts is all the fresh produce that arrives in grocery stores and farmer’s markets. But why not take advantage of the warm sunny weather this summer and grow some fruit of your own?

You don’t have to plant a whole orchard to get your hands on some of summer’s most delicious fruit. Planting strawberries doesn’t take up a lot of room, and they should thrive as long as you have a well-drained location (or even a raised bed). Plant this fruit in the spring, after there’s no threat of a frost. Find a full sun area of your garden if you’re looking to plant these right into the soil or in a raised bed. Did you know that you can also plant strawberries in a pot as well? Whether you’re in an apartment, or are just not sure you’re ready to create a brand new garden this year, consider using a container for your strawberry plants. This is also a great solution if you don’t have full sun in your area due to trees--with a pot you can move your strawberry plants around so that they’ll always be in the appropriate amount of sunlight.

In addition to sunlight, make sure the soil is well drained, not too wet, and that the roots of your plant are arranged vertically. Keep the soil moist through August, but don’t allow it to get soggy.

If you’ve always wanted to have your own blueberry bush, now is the time to plant one! Blueberry bushes do take a couple of years to get established, but once they are, they’ll bear fruit each year for you to enjoy. Make sure you have the appropriate amount of space for a blueberry bush when you’re planting in the spring, typically the hole for the root system should be 2-3 times larger than the actual plant. Keep the soil moist and remember, this plant loves full sun.

Another easy to grow fruit in Ohio are blackberries and raspberries, which can come in all kinds of varieties. Raspberries can be found in red, yellow, purple, or black, and blackberries come in either thornless or with thorns. Regardless of the species, raspberries and blackberries love full sun, and depending on the variety, you’ll need to make sure you plant them with/without a trellis for support. Blackberries and raspberries will produce wonderfully delicious berries throughout the summer--just make sure not to overwater as it can cause disease--and take advantage of utilizing a mulch for moisture control.

Some of our favorite fruit just can’t withstand the harsh winters of Ohio. If you’d rather have access to lemons, pears, or even dates year round, there’s another option for planting fruits as well--using a pot! There are many kinds of dwarf varieties of fruits such as these that do very well indoors in a container. When you plant this way, you can bring your fruit trees outdoors during the summer months to soak up the warm sunshine, but bring it inside when frost threatens in the fall. It’s one easy way to have access to fruits that are above the Ohio USDA hardiness zone that you can grow yourself.

Fill your garden with both annuals and perennials for continuous color all summer long!

When to Plant Annual and Perennial Flowers in Ohio

Plant your favorite flowers at the right time and enjoy them all summer long!

Now that you know when to get veggies into the soil, and how to get access to summer fruit in your backyard, now it’s time for the flowers! Many popular flowers in Ohio that spring up first in mid-March through April are bulbs, and need to be planted in the fall. Before the first hard frost in late October or early November, dig up the place where you’d like to put your bulbs. Tulips, daffodils, crocuses, and snowdrops all require a little planning ahead in order to enjoy these beautiful flowers in the spring.

Everyone loves seeing the first shy flowers peak above the soil, it means that spring is on its way! Bulbs tend to be very low maintenance as well, and will continue to come up year after year to bring your garden a pop of color.

Spring is also a great time to get some plants in your garden, whether you’re looking to add perennials-- where you’ll plant once and they’ll come up every year or every other year (biennials)-- or annuals, which you will plant each year. Most Ohio gardeners like to have a little of both in their gardens, as there are plenty of plants in each category that are sure to give you a beautiful garden. If you’re feeling adventurous--or want to try something new--you can start your annuals indoors from seed. Not only is this a fun project, but it is incredibly rewarding to see your plants thrive once you move them to the garden. Feel free to put popular annuals such as snapdragons, pansies, and violas out into the garden in late April, as they can sustain the colder weather better than other annuals.

Other annuals that are consistently seen in Ohio gardens but planted at the end of May are zinnias, petunias, sunflowers, impatiens, and marigolds. These flowers are native to tropical or subtropical areas and should only be planted in late May as frost will kill them.

Perennials are another fantastic option to keep your garden blooming from spring until fall. These flowers such as catmint, phylox, anemones, hostas, coneflower, and hellebore will come up each year to populate your garden. Just ensure they’re given the time and attention they need to get established, and you can sit back and enjoy the view as they spring to life!

Once you have a few of the basics of gardening down, you can turn any patch of Ohio into an instant garden! Depending on what you’d like to grow, just make sure to follow the suggestions for planting and the care instructions, and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful garden views or delicious garden vegetables and fruit all summer long!

May 25, 2020
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