Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

Easy-Grow Veggies and Zone Changes

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I'm still working on my garden plans, but wanted to put this resource out there for those of you who might just be getting started with growing your own (where I was last year!) 

If you're not already familiar with their great magazine, the Mother Earth News website has a ton of great information on gardening, self-sufficiency, and homesteading.  While researching which beans to grow, I ran across this article from them titled "Easiest Vegetables to Grow".  I think this is a great article for folks just beginning or even thinking about starting a backyard garden.  The recommended veggies?

  • Lettuce, kale and other salad mixes.  Folks here in Missouri usually just sow the seeds on top of the snow in February\March and they plant themselves as the snow melts!
  • Herbs such as thyme and sage.  You can grow these easily in a pot on your kitchen window sill or patio.  Imagine walking out and picking all the fresh herbs for your dinner rather than that dried up stuff in a bottle.  You'll definitely notice the difference in taste.
  • Potatoes.  Gonna try these this year.
  • Green beans.  Another new one at the Farm this year.
  • Tomatoes, a perennial garden favorite.
  • Summer squash

 That's a pretty good start, I think. Although I'd add a melon or pumpkin to the last as well.  They seemed insanely easy to grow last year.
When you're getting started, there are a couple of things that you need to know:  your hardiness zone (some plants grow better in specific zones) and what your last frost date is (you don't want to plant and then have a frost kill your seedlings, and when you should plant certain crops centers around this date.)  So let's take a closer look at those, shall we?

Finding Your Last Frost Date

The best way I've found to locate your specfic frost date is through the National Climatic Data Center. Choose your state and then locate the city nearest you, and it will show your average last spring (and first fall) frost dates, based on the weather data collected from 1971 through 2000 . You can choose between a 50/50 probability of frost after the given date, or you can play it safe and choose the 10 percent date, which means there’s only a 10 percent chance of a frost after that date.  As your planning out your garden, check your seed source for information about when to plant according to last frost date (often this information is on the back of the seed packets.)

Frost dates for Cranky Puppy Farm.  For most crops, use the 32 degree dates (in red).

New Plant Hardiness Zones for 2012

Another piece of information you'll need to know is what zone you're located in.  The USDA released a new zone map in January of this year, so you'll probably want to check and see whether yours changed.  We moved from a 5b to a 6a.    That doesn't really affect me, because I've always grown based on zone 6 (I m ade my own determination based on the weather.)

There are two ways to check your new zone.  If you just want to know the zone in your zip code, enter your zip and click on "Find".  It will give you your zone information, including the lowest temps in your zone. The second way is to select your state from the top of the map and then you'll get something like the pic to the right:

Helpful, but sometimes your neighborhood can even make a difference in terms of what zone you're in.  So I actually think the interactive map option has the most information.  You can enter your zip code and then zoom in or out, turn off the road labels, where you can search for your zip code and zoom down to your neighborhood, and click on the map to move around.  Here's a close-up of our neighborhood just east of downtown KC. 

Something interesting that we can now see on this map that we couldn't see from the others is that the entire downtown of Kansas City is one step up in zones and is in 6b.  CrankyPuppy Farm is in 6a but the line for 6b is literally just blocks away to the west.  I'm assuming this is because all of the building mass holds heat better than all the suburban lawns.  It also provides a great windbreak from all those Kansas winds and tornadoes, but that's a whole 'nother story.

Anyway, have fun with the map.  I found it mildly interesting, to say the least.  One of those things that you say "hmmpph..." and then go about your day.  But I've always grown like we were in 6a anyway, so I'm not sure this is going to affect my garden plans too much.

One other thing that caught my attention while I was screwing around on the USDA site was this header.

That's an easy enough question when the answer is "you".  If you're a newbie gardener like me and think "I can't grow anything", then I'm proof that that attitude is nonsense.  Start small if you're not sure and then expand to different things.  I certainly don't know everything (not even close!) but I'm learning all kinds of stuff.  It doesn't cost alot other than your time and I've found that gardening is sooooo relaxing.  There's just something about getting your hands dirty.


  1. Looks like you are getting ready! Don't forget that my seed give away is about to close. Remind all your friends, link below!


  2. I love Mother Earth News and I love their websites... look at Grit and Cappers, too.

  3. Thanks for the tip, Mary Ann. I've seen Grit but am not a subscriber. I'll have to check out Cappers, as I haven't heard of that one before. Hope you're enjoying this beautiful weather today!


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