The state of Idaho has several different climates, which means there is a great deal of variation in the growing seasons. The northwest and southwest parts of the state are more temperate, so the growing season can last up to seven months, while the eastern part of the state is cooler and has a shorter growing season. Additionally, gardeners who live at higher elevations can expect later last frost dates and earlier first frosts.
When to Plant
The timing of planting your seeds depends on your location within the state, the elevation and the number of days the crop needs to mature. Additionally, some crops, like tomatoes and eggplant, need warm soil temperatures to thrive. When planning your sowing schedule, consider the average last frost date for your region, and plan to get seeds or seedlings in the ground within three weeks after that date. The last frost dates for Idaho can arrive as early as mid-May, with some regions staying quite cold until the middle of June.
Extend the Growing Season
Even if you live in a temperate part of Idaho, consider extending your growing season. Start seeds indoors several weeks before the last predicted hard frost to get a jump on the season, and consider using row covers and cold-frame greenhouses or cloches to protect young seedlings and keep the soil warm. Prepare your soil as much as you can in the fall so it's ready for spring planting, and keep your soil nutritious and well-fertilized with organic material to help plants grow stronger and faster in a short season.
Plant Fall Crops
Another way to make the most of a short growing season is to choose cool season crops that do well in Idaho autumns, where the plants can benefit from a few light frosts. Kale, broccoli, cabbage and turnips all fare well in cold weather. Some cool season varieties of sweet corn and carrots will even have improved flavor and texture from the short, warm days and cool nights of fall.
Take advantage of the sunlight on short days by making sure your garden gets maximum exposure to the sun. Choose a southern-facing part of your yard with no large trees or buildings that will shade your plants. Try to have your garden rows oriented north to south so the sun hits them as long as possible. Additionally, cold winds can lower soil temperatures, so make sure your garden has as much shelter as possible, either from a building, fence or trees.
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