When To Plant What: A Guide To Planting Each Vegetable In Your Garden At The Right Time

 

My grandpa always planted his whole garden in May.  He took care of it all summer, canned a ton of food, and had the whole thing harvested and “put to bed” by October.  A lot of people do this, and if canning is your #1 reason for planting a garden (with a little lettuce for a few weeks in June), that is great.  However, if you’ve ever found yourself standing in the produce section of your grocery store in February, looking at a wimpy, wilty head of lettuce with a $2.50 price tag, you might be interested in planting a little differently.  Some vegetables, like lettuce and other greens, like cooler weather.  They will withstand quite cool temps, and even thrive in them, with just a little protection from snow and ice. So when do you plant stuff? . . . I’m here to tell ya!

We will be referring to first and last frost often throughout this guide. For a better understanding of this, and to find your own dates, go over to Planning a Garden that is Productive All Year: An Overview Of Garden Tasks

 

{Onions}

Onions like cooler weather. Onions can be planted to eat young (green onions) or mature bulbs.  Onions can take as long as 120 days to fully mature.

  • Onions should be started indoors 9-12 weeks before the estimated time of your last frost
  • you may direct seed them into the garden 4-8 weeks before your last frost, this works best if they are at least sown in a little warmer weather, to help them germinate better
  • they take 13 days at 50°F and 5 days at 68°F, to give you an idea of what the weather should look like for the quickest sprouting possibilities
  • buying sets to transplant is another possibility, those go in the ground 3-8 weeks before the last frost.  You will plant out your own seedlings at this time.
  • you may direct seed, or plant sets for that matter, up until the last of may.  planting these in succession, 2 weeks apart will give you continuous green onions, while reserving a plot for maturing, storage onions.  You can then start planting them out again 10 weeks before your last frost, and stopping 4 weeks before that last frost. These latter plantings can be pulled before a hard freeze, or covered to enjoy all winter long!

 

{Peas}

Sugar peas, snow peas, peas, snap peas. . . these love the cool to mild weather of spring and fall. They take about 60 days to start producing.

  • Direct sow these into the garden approximately 8 weeks before the last frost
  • these do not like to be transplanted
  • Direct sow again 8-10 weeks before your first frost.  They really hate the heat, so you may have to adjust the planting time accordingly if you are having a hot spell.  I haven’t had luck with fall planted snow peas so far . . . but I keep trying!

 

{Greens}

I’m lumping dark green leafy stuff altogether here, along with lettuce. We’re talking kale, spinach, chard, bok choy, arugala, etc.  I plant them all at about the same time, some you will want to put in a succession planting routine, and some you can plant once in the spring, and then again in the fall, and pick  from them over several weeks again and again.

  • Direct seed them 8-10 weeks before the last frost is predicted.
  • Some you may want to start indoors and transplant, but it is not necessary.  They all like cooler weather (mostly.  there are a few greens that love warmer weather, as we will discuss later on)
  • You can start sowing these again beginning 8-10 weeks before your first frost.
  • Choose a time when there is a break in the temperatures.  There are times when I sow these as far as 12 weeks before the first frost, because the weather is unseasonably cool and it will give them a good start.
  • Plant in succession up to 4 weeks before the first frost.
  • These last plantings can be covered when it freezes and harvested all winter long!

{Asparagus}

Asparagus is planted from starts, or crowns, taken from an established plant. You can obtain these from a farmer’s market, a garden center, or a friend!

  • Plant out 8 weeks before your last frost

{Root Vegetables}

I use the term loosely.  I am speaking of cool season root vegetables.  Turnips, beets, radishes, daikon, carrots, kohlrabi (even though this isn’t a root). . . these can all be planted in succession also, so you have just enough to eat at a time.  In the fall they can be planted in succession, then 6 weeks before the first frost, plant enough for a winters supply to cover from freezing temps, to eat on all winter.  Of coarse you can pull them and store them in a cool place to eat all winter- it’s up to you!

  • Direct sow these crops 8 weeks before your last frost
  • plant in succession up until 2 weeks after your last frost date
  • start direct sowing them again 10-12 weeks before your first frost date
  • sow the last planting 4 weeks before your first frost date
  • Parsnips are a little different.  The best method is to direct sow them 4 weeks before your last frost.  They take a very long time, and they are best when harvested after a frost or two  (you can plant them up to 120 days before your first frost, however they take a long time to germinate, and they must be kept cool and wet during this time)

 

{Potatoes}

Potatoes like cooler weather, also. These are planted, not from seed, but using potatoes from the year before that have started to sprout.  Thus they are called “seed potatoes”  you can purchase these at any gardening center, or online. Or, from potatoes in your bin that have sprouted! You may plant the whole potato, or cut it into 3-4 pieces, making sure each piece contains an “eye” or sprout.

  • Plant 4-6 weeks before your last frost.

 

{Brassicas}

Here, for our purposes,  we are referring to broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts. . . These like cool temps, but not cold, they really don’t like to be exposed to temps under 50°.  I find these tricky in MO, where I live, because our spring temps swing up and down so wildly.  The length of time to harvest for brassicas varies widely, some taking 75 days, others can take up to 120 days! If you live in an area with short springs and falls and a lot of heat in between, start with varieties that are quicker to produce. These can be planted spring and fall.

  • start them indoors 8 weeks before your last frost date
  • transplant them into the garden 4 weeks before your last frost date (or purchase plants from a nursery to transplant)
  •  start them indoors 10-14 weeks before your first frost date
  • transplant them into the garden 8-12 weeks before your first frost. Again, they need cooler temps, so if there is a cool spell 12 weeks before your first frost date, plant them out.  If it’s like Hades out there, wait a bit.
  • alternately, buy seedlings from a nursery and plant them out at the proper times.

 

{Tomatoes}

Tomatoes need a long growing season.  They should be started indoors in all but the warmest gardening zones.

  • Start them indoors, 6-10 weeks before your last frost.
  • Transplant them into the garden after all threat of frost has passed
  • If it is warm, and you can’t wait, go ahead and plant them out.  Be prepared to cover them with plastic if a frost is threatening
  • If you get a late start, they can be planted out as late as 18 weeks before your first frost. As a last resort.
  • They can be direct seeded 2 weeks before your last frost date if you are in a zone that gets at least 25 weeks of frost free weather. You just won’t get as large of a harvest this way, because the frost will come while the tomatoes are still bearing well. . . but if you need to. . .
  • Of coarse you can buy seedlings at your local nursery or farmers market and transplant them out after the last frost

 

{Peppers}

Peppers also, need a long growing season.  They take a tad longer than tomatoes to start indoors.

  • Start indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost of spring
  • Buy transplants and set into your garden after the last frost
  • Transplant into the garden after all threat of frost has passed

 

{Eggplant}

Eggplant is another warm loving plant. Growing them is much the same as peppers and tomatoes.

  • Start from seeds indoors 6-10 weeks before your last frost date.
  • Plant out into the garden after the last frost. If you’ve bought seedlings, plant them out now, also.

 

{Beans}

Beans are a heat loving vegetable

  • direct seed into the garden 2 weeks before the last frost
  • succession plant all summer long, up to 10 weeks before the first frost

 

{Corn}

Corn likes warm weather.

  • Direct seed corn into the garden after the last frost.

 

{Cucumbers}

Cucumbers like heat, although they can benefit from some shade in the hottest of weather.

  • Direct seed into the garden after all threat of frost has passed

 

{Squash}

Squash love heat, both summer and winter squash

  • Direct seed into the garden after all threat of frost has passed

 

{Melon}

Melon and watermelon like warm weather.

  • Direct seed into the garden after all threat of frost has passed

 

{Okra}

Okra does not like cold. it is a southern vegetable and thrives in the heat.

  • Direct seed in the garden after your last frost

 

{Rutabaga}

Rutabaga is a long season vegetable.

  • Direct seed in the garden 12-14 weeks before the first frost
  • Best harvested after a frost

 

{Sweet Potato}

Sweet potatoes like it warm! Plant from “slips” – little sprouts that have grown from the “eyes” of a plant from the previous season.

  • Plant your slips when it is nice and warm, a few weeks after your last frost date.

 

There you have it! Now you can start a plan for what varieties you’d like to grow and when to plant them.  Don’t forget to plan for succession plantings of those vegetables that you’d like a smaller amount of on a more consistent basis! Get out your  Baker’s Creek seed catalog and start planning 🙂

Are there any vegetables you like to plant that weren’t listed here? I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Garden, Uncategorized.

5 Comments

  1. Ahhh I always get so overwhelmed by the thought of what to plant and when! This post was a great guide to start, I am saving it in my favorites! Thanks!

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