There’s nothing quite like fresh, home-grown produce. Fruits and vegetables right from your garden can guarantee delicious, highly nutritious, and completely organic* food for you and your family. However, different vegetables require unique growing guidelines in order to offer a bountiful harvest. Understanding when to plant vegetables can help you enjoy fresh garden greens all year long.
Important Factors that Determine When to Plant Vegetables
Your ZoneFirst and foremost: know your zone. Your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone determines which vegetables will thrive (or be put at risk) during certain months of the year in your region. Your typical last frost date and average climate play a major role in determining when to plant seedlings, when to transport plants from containers to your garden, and when to stop planting for the year.
Vegetable TypesOnce you know your zone, you can then determine when to plant which vegetables throughout the year. The key is to understand cool-season vegetables vs. warm-season vegetables.
Cool-season vegetablesCool-season vegetables include spinach, broccoli, lettuce, potatoes, and other hardy plants that often offer edible leaves or roots. These veggies typically grow best in temperatures ranging around 40 degrees to 75 degrees. Most zones allow seedlings to be planted two to four weeks before the last spring frost or much later around the fall season when summer temperatures have subsided. Plant as soon as there’s workable soil in your garden. Workable soil is crumbly and not too moist from snow or cold rain. See more on growing cool-season vegetables here.
Warm-season vegetablesWarm-season vegetables are much more sensitive to frost and colder climates. They include options such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and more. Your soil and climate need to reach temperatures between 60 and 85 degrees consistently before you even begin planting most of these crops. In zones with shorter summers, opt for short-season varieties to improve your harvest opportunities.
Your Gardening Methods and EnvironmentAre you able to incorporate container gardening or indoor planting? Or do you prefer to plant solely in your outdoor garden? How you plant has a lot to do with when to plant vegetables. Frost, soil, and external temperatures can all be somewhat controlled with a few useful tools or planting methods. Here’s a few ways to extend your growing season and planting capabilities.
Container GardeningFor loose, ready-to-go, workable soil early in the season, consider starting plants in containers. For example, a raised bed garden offers the perfect environment for growing plants at the start of the season, with aerated soil unaffected by the winter season in a contained and portable unit. As long as seedlings have enough space in their container for roots to spread and retrieve necessary nutrients, plants can grow and thrive before being transported to your yard or garden. See our planting in a raised bed greenhouse guide for more container gardening tips.
Greenhouses/Indoor PlantingCertain plants do just fine growing near a sunny south-facing window right in your home before transporting them outdoors. With this method, plants stay comfortable in a warmer environment without sacrificing much-needed sunlight. However, greenhouses provide the ultimate home for planting vegetables of all sorts year-round. By investing in a greenhouse, you can effectively monitor and control the internal temperature to what’s ideal for the vegetables you choose to grow. You can ensure plants receive enough heat, sunlight, ventilation, and protection against harsh weather in order to flourish for months longer than typically allowable.
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