This is a guide for gardening activities in NW Arkansas. See University of Arkansas Year-Round Home Planting Guide and www.uaex.edu for more details. Also see Jeavons' book, How to Grow More Vegetables, pages 78-79.
High Temp-degrees F--44---49---58----69----76---83---89---88---80---71---58----48
Low Temp-degrees F--22---27---37----36----55---63---68---66---59---47---37----27
Our growing season in NW AR is about 200 days. April 10 is the mean date of last spring freeze, and Oct 30 is the mean date of first fall freeze. Within the area, the freeze dates will vary depending on elevation, slope position, and year-to-year variation. The dates below are general guidelines.
Get a soil test from UA, Extension Service. It is free. Plan your garden layout and order seeds.
If soil is workable, in late January you may add compost and some fertilizers. Do not work the soil if it is too wet. If a handful of squeezed soil does not break apart when dropped, the soil is too wet to work. For fruit trees, this is time for pruning and dormant oil sprays. If you have winter weeds, pull them before they go to seed.
February and March
Seeds germinate more slowly in cool soils. Do not rush to plant if the season has been cloudy and cool. Sometimes by late February, temperatures will be above 40 degrees and you can plant Irish potatoes, onions, lettuce, beets, cabbage, broccoli, Swiss chard, radishes, kale, mustard, turnips, and English peas. You can repeat plantings of these crops until the end of March and into April. Basically all of these crops will handle light frosts of 27-28 degrees. When the weather gets hot, these crops will fade.
April and May
April is a great month for harvesting the spring vegetables and the tricky month for starting the summer vegetables. Summer vegetables will not survive frosts. As a rule, basil, squash, melons, okra, peppers, tomatoes, sweet corn, beans, cucumbers, dill, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes need a soil temperature of 60 degrees to germinate and grow. In a very warm year, they will do okay by planting in late April. However, by waiting until May, you are assured that there will be no frosts, soil temperature will be more ideal, and the plants will get off to a better start.
June and July
Where you have harvested the spring vegetables, you may want to plant additional summer crops. Sweet potatoes, hot peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, watermelon and okra love hot weather and will do well if planted in June. You can plant other summer vegetables in July, but high temperatures will generally hurt the plants and reduce yield.
August and September
August is another transition month. It will seem very much like summer, but you need to be thinking about fall vegetables. Fall vegetables like spinach, lettuce, beets, carrots, turnips, kale, and Swiss chard can be planted from mid August to mid September. As a rule you will get a better crop of these than when planted in the spring.
September is the ideal month to plant winter cover crops. Do a soil test in August, so you can fertilize before you plant the cover crop. I plant oats or Austrian winter peas on all the garden beds that are not in fall vegetables. When oats if planted in mid September, you will get a thick, tall stand of oats that will cover and protect the soil and crowd out weeds all winter.
October and November
If you have followed the general plan described here, these are the great gardening months. You will be eating some very good fall vegetables, and have relatively little other garden work to do. Fall vegetables are generally sweeter and more tasty. I also plant my garlic in October. Dig your sweet potatoes before the first frost. If you have fall/winter weeds, remove them by pulling or hoeing.
You can expect to pull fresh carrots throughout December. If you have strawberries, put on a light straw mulch. Remove it in February. Order seed catalogues. Depending on the soil test, I will add fertilizers before each crop is planted, including the cover crops. As a rule, I will add 30 gallons of compost per 100 square feet before each crop is planted.