Zone 5b (-15 to -10 Fahrenheit)



With project #2 underway and January coming to a close, it’s time to jump ahead into February’s winter chill.  I’m not sure what project to work on next but with snow falling in Flint right now, it might be time for some indoor winter activities. Before we hunker down in the cold, let’s take a moment to think of the promise of spring.
 
According to the USDA’s Gardening and Plant Hardennes Zone Map, Flint, like most of Southern Michigan, is classified as Zone 5b (-15 to -10 Fahrenheit).  This classification helps us gauge when to start what seeds at what time of the year. This bring us to the question for the Flint, Mi x10 project - 
When can we plant pumpkins? 
 



Pumpkins, native to the Americas and traditional stars of Fall festivities, always seemed to me a hearty cold weather plant. The truth is they warm plants like watermelons and tomatoes. As a warm season plant, pumpkins should go in the ground after the last frost of winter.  The trick is that you also need to avoid planting them late or you’ll end up with poor freezing unripe pumpkins at Halloween.
 
This would be a good time to inform you of an
unfortunate fact in my life. Although I come from generation after generation of German Iowan farmers, I’m a plant killer. The one plant in my apartment, a little cactus named Roxey, just holds onto life in spite.  You name it and I’ve let it go unwatered for weeks in a terracotta pot. 
 
I think part of the problem is that I’m just not interested in house plants. I mean, what’s the point of an indoor fern? Pumpkins, on the other hand, I fawn over. I like to eat them. I like to carve them. I find them oddly beautiful and full of magic. For me, they are ancient beings who come into the world each Fall. They appear and let us know it is time to say goodbye to Summer’s grace.
 
It was with some hesitation that my neighbors and best of friends Kate and Mike invited me to plant a pumpkin patch near their cabin in upstate New York. As I have killed a few of Kate and Mike’s plants while house sitting as well as drowning every living thing in their backyard for good measure, I understood their concern. To all of our amazement, as the corn will not take and bugs munch on the tomatoes, a small patch of cooking pumpkins thrives in their garden. Each year, we cull a few seeds for planting  next spring.

k and m garden
Project #6. With seeds culled from friends Catskill  garden plant rouge pumpkin in a Flint public park.
 
Which brings us back to the question, when can we plant pumpkins in Flint this year? My best guess right now is the first week of May. As the snow falls in Flint, May feels a long ways away.