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2200 Oregon Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19145
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Frequently Asked Questions About Gardening

What number planting zone am I in?

Check the USDA plant hardiness zone map, as planting zones have shifted over the years. Zones with higher numbers can plant earlier in the year. Increase your odds of successful gardening by choosing plants that are meant for your zone.

When can I plant seeds outside?

If the soil isn't frozen or cold, consider planting your flower, veggie, or fruit seeds directly into your garden. This is called the "direct sow" method. The time to plant will be after the threat of frost is gone for the season, as seedlings and sprouts can't weather those conditions. You can also start your seeds indoors if you'd like. Consult your seed packet for how and when to sow seeds.

How do I plant seeds?

Read your seed envelope for the best info on how to grow spring flowers, fruits, and vegetables — indoors or outdoors. Requirements vary with each seed type. Some seeds should only be planted indoors, and your seed packet will tell you that, too. For more details, check out how to start your garden with seeds.

Do I have to harden off my seedlings before planting them outside?

Yes, if you raised plants indoors from seeds, harden them first before you transplant them. Hardening is the process of getting them used to the great outdoors and rain, sun, and temperature swings. It slows their growth until they're strong and ready to take off during a spring warm front. Hardening also makes your plants more resilient to a sudden cold snap. Read your seed packets or speak to a garden center associate for more information.

Can I strengthen my seedlings before planting them outdoors?

Get your sprouts used to storms and breezy spring days with a fan and keep fungus from growing in damp conditions. Set up an oscillating floor fan on low to mimic the wind. Just the gentlest breeze for several hours a day will do the trick. This makes them stronger against wind gusts. If you don't set up a fan, your seedlings may be more sensitive to strong winds. Try to plant between storms.

Should I use peat moss starters or coir starters?

Seed starters, full of nutrients in pots or pellets, work for new and experienced gardeners. You don't have to use these starters if you're planting in soil, but you may want to. Starting seeds in peat pots works best for delicately rooted plants like carrots and beets, as well as flowers that need acidic soil. Some people prefer coir starters instead, as they have a neutral pH. Check what type of soil your plants need to help narrow it down, and chat with a garden center associate if you need more info.

The Home Depot Garden Center at Phil/Oregon Ave

It's time to start thinking of spring. We're here to help you prepare for sprouts poking up, warmer temperatures, and fragrant breezes. Planting seeds indoors near a sunny window means you'll be ready to transplant young veggie plants and spring annuals when the ground thaws and the frosts are through. You might even want to directly plant organic seeds into the earth.

Plant Hardiness Zones Explained
The first thing to learn when planting veggies, spring flowers, and other seeds is your planting zone. Every location in the U.S. and its territories is sorted by climate. Find your zone on the USDA planting zone map and learn when to plant seeds.

For example, you could transplant bell peppers outdoors in mid-March in Zone 10, but not until the end of May in Zone 4. The plants that'll thrive in your area are in your zone, and all the zones numbered less than that. In other words, a Zone 6 garden can support plants listed as Zones 1–6. You can plant seeds indoors roughly a month before you can plant them outside, or direct sow. Read your seed packet for details. If you start seeds a little later than recommended, it's not ideal, but it will likely even out as time passes.

Gardening in Your Growing Zone
In Zone 5, which includes parts of Pennsylvania as well as upstate New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and southern Maine, your best bets for veggies will be root vegetables like beets and carrots, leafy greens including lettuce, and cruciferous veggies like cabbage and kale. You can try squash, but prepare for additional warming upkeep when late frost is forecast. Target planting dates are roughly mid-March through May 1st, depending on whether you're starting your seeds indoors or direct sowing.

Much of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut, southern New York state, and Massachusetts are in Zone 6, so planting can begin earlier there than farther north. Parts of Virginia are even warmer, coming in at Zone 7. The outdoor growing season doesn't begin until mid-March or even April, although you can plant some veggie seeds halfway through February. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, onions, and other classic garden crops will do well in this region, and most of them can get an early start indoors before spring really moves in.

Start Seeds Indoors
You can save money and gain the satisfaction of growing your garden from seeds by starting them indoors. We've got all the seed starter supplies you'll need. For best results, you'll want grow lights or a warming mat to go with your seed tray or planter pots. If you're planting a larger garden, use seed trays — like the ones you see sprouts in at your Phil/Oregon Ave Garden Center — to make it easy to stay organized and plant tiny soil plugs later. You can also use pots with potting soil and seed starter mix.

Measure your finger to use it as a ruler. In general, you'll plant 3–5 seeds, then press them into the soil to the depth you need with your finger. Mark where you planted the seeds with a toothpick or plant tag. That way, you'll know where your seeds should pop up. Otherwise, it'll be a surprise when the sprouts push out of the soil.

Prepare your seed sprouts for outdoor life while they're still indoors. These inch-tall micro-seedlings are fragile but resilient. Seedlings certainly don't get all this pampering in nature when they volunteer and grow wherever they please, so they can handle more than you think. However, don't go overboard, as your sprouts are still babies. You can even use an oscillating fan on low to mimic the wind and strengthen their stems.

Harden Your Seedlings
Harden your seedlings for strong plants. On days that are warmer than 45–50 degrees, take your trays or pots of seedlings outside to slowly warm in the shade for two hours, but bring them inside at night. A cloudy day will also work well. Gradually add more outside time each day, incorporating a little sun to get your plants used to it. After a week or more of this, you can leave them out overnight if the temps stay at 50 degrees or above at night. Cover your plants if they're in the ground and a late-season frost sneaks back in.

Transplant Young Plants Into Their New Homes
Place your transplants in the ground, then water them well. Surround them with mulch, marking where the plant is with a tag or stick so you can easily find it among the grass clippings, old leaves, or straw. Consider putting up chicken wire or other protective measures if rodents or deer visit your yard regularly, as your sprouts may otherwise become a snack.

Protect Your Garden With Mulch
Finish your garden bed with mulch and compost. Mulch controls weeds and keeps the soil moist. Compost enriches the soil so your garden can grow even better. It may help foster stronger plants that bear more fruit and flowers. Compost and mulch can be purchased in-store or created at home. The next time you're looking for "mulch near me," stop by the Garden Center to get the perfect amount.

Greet the Spring
Late winter into early spring is an exciting time in the world of gardening. Don't miss a minute of growing season. Prepare to fertilize your lawn, plan your garden and landscaping, and browse our garden center pages to find inspiration on which spring flowers to plant when the weather warms. Shop for the fertilizer, seeds, and soil you need in the aisles of your Phil/Oregon Ave Garden Center, online, or on our mobile app. Let's get growing together.

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