Learn how to plant in a New England garden zone 6. Gardening is a great way to get into a homesteading lifestyle, no matter where you live.
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Our New England Garden
We are lucky enough to live on 10+ acres of property right here in New England. Here, we live in USDA hardiness zone 6 and we experience frigid winters and hot summers.
Our garden is located right off the back of our home, and measures 40′ x 60′. When we first moved here, we were thrilled to have a huge garden! Over the years, we have realized that it is possible to have a garden that’s too big. Because of the size of our garden, we’ve experienced super sized weeds, groundhog families, deer families, rabbit families and dead space in our garden.
Each year we plan out our garden differently, so that each year is a little more efficient than the last. 2021 will mark the fourth year we have lived in our farmhouse, so come and learn along with us as we discover what to plant in a New England garden!
While the growing potential is extensive here in New England, here’s a list of what we love to grow:
- String Beans (bush variety)
- Ground Cherries
- And so much more…
Challenges New England Gardeners Face
For New Englanders, the growing season is short! Here in zone 6, our growing season is roughly April through October. While this may not seem like a short growing season, there are certain crops that take too long to mature that cannot grow here. For example, artichokes would need to be started in a greenhouse or cold frame because of their long growing period.
Aside from frigid winters, New Englanders can also experience periods of drought during the summer months. This (of course) all depends on location. Before we lived in our farmhouse, we lived in the city and were connected to city water. During dry summer months, there were often water bans in place which prevented the watering of gardens/lawns. At our farmhouse, we now have a well as well as a pond on the property. We still need to be mindful of water usage, but can often set up irrigation from our pond to help with watering!
New England is known for it’s ever-changing weather, but we also have a variety of wildlife too. On our property, we’ve seen everything from bears, to deer, coyotes, fisher cats, all the way down to groundhogs and rabbits. Keeping wildlife out of the homestead can be easier said than done, but it definitely is possible!
Beginner Homesteading in New England
This post is written in collaboration with a small “herd” of blogging friends! We all wanted to share our love for homesteading with you, so please stay tuned through the end of this post to see what our homesteading blogging friends are working on.
My husband and I have had a love for growing food since we first became married. We’re talking long before the farmhouse, and the property … in a tiny back yard of our urban home. In this small garden, we grew corn, peas, broccoli, radishes, beets, cucumbers … you name it – we grew it.
Homesteading doesn’t have to be done on a farm, and homesteading doesn’t necessarily mean growing and harvesting animals. To us, homesteading is a form of self-sufficiency. Growing and eating healthy, organic food that we grew (often from seed) is how we fell in love with the homesteading lifestyle that we strive for today.
What Crops to Grow in a New England Garden
If you are a fellow New Englander, you may be curious about what to plant in the garden this season!
There are a few questions you should ask yourself to help decide what to plant:
- Will you start these crops from starts, or from seed? Starting crops from seed does take a bit longer than purchasing starter plants, so it’s important to research how long each type of seed takes to reach maturity to ensure there is enough time in the growing season to plant it.
- What do you like to eat? This may sound simple enough, but what vegetables do you enjoy? At least you know these crops will be eaten quickly.
- What grows well here? Learning what grows best in your yard may take a little trial and error to figure out. Gardening is all about learning afterall, and the gardener’s best tool is a notebook.
- Which plants do I want to experiment with? For us, this is the most fun. We always leave a little extra room in the garden for new additions.
There are limitless crops to plant, no matter where you live but these questions should help you narrow it down a bit!
Crop Rotation and Garden Planning
No matter where you live, it’s important to plan out the garden before you purchase seeds. Different plants need different nutrients (or amounts of nutrients) from the soil, which leads us into crop rotation.
Crop rotation is essentially when we plant each crop in a different location in the garden each season. This is done to optimize the health of the soil, and essentially for the plants too. For example, we planted cucumbers at the back corner of our garden last year. This spring, our cucumbers will move to the front of the garden.
Garden planning may sound silly (believe me, I am not a planner-type). But, it’s essential. Especially if you’re like us and get very excited in the greenhouse at the beginning of the season and tend to go overboard and purchase way too many starter plants …
Once you learn what grows well in your garden, you can start to plan out where to put everything each year. The first two years of living here, we did not plan out our garden and ended up with plenty of wasted space. Now, we will draw out what our garden’s footprint looks like, identify raised beds, where rows will be made and what crops will be planted where.
Our 2021 garden is going to look much different this year, and that’s something we are very excited about. We’ve planned to split the garden in half and grow vegetables and cutting flowers. In order to support the flowers, care has been taken to plan out irrigation and a support system to keep the flowers from falling over.
Organic Pest Control for a New England Garden
Got bugs? Chances are, if you have a garden then you have bugs! While not all bugs are bad, there are a significant number of bugs that cause damage to crops.
Our personal (least) favorite is the squash bug. Combating garden pests is a challenge no matter what the location. We have found a dilute solution of peppermint castile soap and water has proven to be very effective at reducing the number of pests on our garden crops.
As for pesky mammals, that’s a different story. When we purchased our farmhouse, the garden was surrounded with solar powered electric fence. Electric fence is extremely effective, but not always a convenient choice for everyone. Being a family with young children, we chose to remove the electric fencing and come up with alternative pest control.
Our garden is fenced in with chain link fencing, with a bar along the top of the garden. Along this high bar we hang shiny CDs from string. As the CDs shimmer in the wind, they act as a deterrent to the deer.
Chain link fencing keeps the larger woodchucks and rabbits out, although we sometimes have babies who can fit through the fence. Overall, we have not had a true “problem” with pests so far.
If rodents are getting you down, try a motion activated sprinkler to spray water and spook the critters for an organic, eco-friendly solution.
Purchasing and Starting Seeds for the garden
Once your garden is planned out, it’s time to decide what seeds need to be purchased. We are very big into seed saving, so we often only ever need to purchase a few seeds.
Seed saving of heirloom seeds is an incredible way to pass down plants from generation to generation. In fact, some heirloom varieties are hundreds of years old!
Seeds can last a long time when stored properly, so winter is the perfect time to get your seed orders in! My husband and I often give each other seeds and seed stating gifts for Valentine’s Day each year. To us, it symbolizes winter coming to an end and gives us hope for a successful gardening and homesteading season to come.
When to Plant a New England Garden
As we lightly touched on before, knowing when to plant depends on what crops you are planting. Each seed packet will estimate the number of days to maturity. This is how to calculate when each type of seed should be planted.
If you’ve chosen to plant starter plants instead of seeds, go ahead and plant after the last frost of the season. On the side of caution, we usually plant right around Mother’s Day weekend each year.
How to Extend the Growing Season in New England
While the growing season here in zone 6 may not be as long as in other parts of the world, there are ways to make it last longer! Many crops are cold tolerant, so they can be planted in early spring or late summer for fall/winter crops.
A greenhouse or cold frame is another great way to extend the growing season by putting some extra heat and protection over a portion of your growing space.
Be sure to check out these great homesteading posts written by my friends in the homesteading blogging community. Simply click on the image text at the bottom of their images to be directed over to their blogs.
Pin It For Later
In summary, the variety of crops that will grow in New England is plentiful. Just be sure the crop has enough time to mature during your growing season. Using starter plants instead of seed may help to grow a longer growing crop, as it will jump start the process for you.
New England gardeners can enjoy virtually any type of crop, with the help of a little greenhouse or cold frame to extend the growing season.