"Plant your crops after the full moon in May."
That was the planting advice offered by Juliett Enfield, the agricultural extension educator at the Penn State Extension Office in Youngsville. This year, that means after May 25.
That goes for commercial crops, as well as home gardeners.
"Anything you put in the ground" Enfield added.
Asked about last year's late frost, she said anything is possible, but planting dates are based on many years of recording the weather. This year there is a 50 percent chance of frost after May 13, according to the "Old Farmers Almanac".
It also lists a variety of planting dates for seeds, depending on the plant. Beets, parsnips and broccoli may be planted as early as the last week in April. Squash, corn and melons shouldn't be sown until the last week in May.
For planting transplants, most vegetables should be safe if planted in late May, although eggplants should wait until June. Again, those dates are based on historical averages, and do not represent a forecast.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's hardiness map is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at any given location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree Fahrenheit zones. Although it does not affect planting dates, it is nice to know if your gardening choices will survive. Most nurseries and landscapers provide recommended hardiness zone ratings for their plants. Warren County falls into zones 5A and 5B, which is slightly warmer.
Gardening in raised beds that are at least 12 inches tall provides many advantages, including soil warming earlier for faster germination. It won't protect against frost, however, unless plants are covered.
Buying seeds is easier now than ever, with most seed companies offering their products online. There is also a much greater variety than in the past, and heirloom and organic seeds are marketed by many companies, some that are specialized. Seed companies that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge promise not to sell seeds that have been genetically modified.