This is confusing.
You wonder when is the best time to start a plant.
Should you just go for it and leave it to instinct and nature? Or should you be really precise on the dates when you should start planting seeds?
Don’t worry because it’s not that complicated. Nature is helpful and plants want to grow. As long as you follow some basics, you’ll have wonderful plants growing in no time.
Let’s learn what is the best time to think about and start planting the vegetables you want to grow.
What are warm-season vegetables?
These are the vegetables that grow in the warm days. These are the days that arrive from late spring to early fall.
Plants like tomatoes, squash, watermelon, corn, and beans fall in this category of warm-season vegetables.
To grow they need a temperature that ranges between 65 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
What are cool-season vegetables?
These are the vegetables that grow in the cool days that fall in early spring, late summer, and fall.
Plants like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, beets, celery, and spinach fall in this category of cool-season vegetables.
These vegetables can survive a light frost and need a temperature that ranges between 55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
What are frost dates and why you need them?
Frost dates are the first and last dates of frost for your geographical area. They’re estimates based on past historical data of your geographical area.
They matter a lot because your vegetables need to be grown based on these dates.
Warm-season vegetables should be planted only after the last frost date when the frost danger is over.
Cool-season vegetables can deal with a little bit of frost based on their variety and type.
How can you figure out when to plant vegetables?
There are some things that can help make it easier to know the best time to plant vegetables in your garden.
Find the zone of your geographical area
Plants can be classified based on the coldest temperature they can sustain. The North American region is divided into 11 zones based on the coldest to warmest.
This means that a plant that can be grown in zone 8 won’t survive the cold in zone 6. They need to be brought indoors or need to be treated as annuals.
You can figure out the zone of your geographical area using the USDA hardiness zone map.
You can check the plant tags or seed packets that will show you the hardiness zone suitable for that plant.
Find out microclimates in your yard
The climate in small areas of your yard or garden can be different based on some conditions. It can be warmer or colder than the climate in the surrounding areas.
The areas to consider are houses, buildings, patios, driveways, balconies, and rooftops. These areas have warm microclimates because they absorb heat during the day and radiate at night.
The tender plants can be sensitive to cold and can be placed in such warm microclimates.
The areas like balconies and rooftops don’t have the frost problem but can have issues like dry winds. This means your plants dry out quicker and need more watering.
Some other areas with microclimates could be south or west-facing walls, large rocks, and fences.
When can you plant cool-season vegetables
You can start planting cool-season vegetables when the temperatures range between 40 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s best to grow them about 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost date.
These are the vegetables that are used for their roots, stems, leaves, buds like potatoes, broccoli, and spinach.
These plants have shallow roots and are small. They stop producing in summer.
The only thing to be careful is that you don’t plant in soggy soil that is wet by snow or spring rains. You need to wait until the soil dries out and is ready for planting.
When can you plant warm-season vegetables
These are the plants that grow best in the warm season. They are plants like tomatoes, beans, peppers, and okra.
These are the plants that grow edible fruits rather than stems, roots, leaves, and bulbs.
The best time to plant them is in spring or early summer. You should wait at least two weeks after the average frost date.
Make sure that the soil and air are at the right temperature to grow. You can continue growing such plants in fall if you use cold frames or row covers.
You can start growing such plants indoors before the growing season begins. It’s important to transplant them slowly from indoors into the garden. Keep them in shade for some time before you fully move them into direct sunlight.
What should you do every month for your garden?
This is the time to plan your garden. It does not matter whether you’re growing a new garden or rebuilding an existing one.
You can plan the garden beds and the plants you want to grow in them. You can think about the crop rotation that needs to be done.
The plans can be maintained so you know what you grow every year. You can keep track of the successes and failures you have every year.
If you plan to start seeds, then you can look at the catalogs and plan to buy the seeds. This could include new seeds that may be improved.
It’s important to buy the seeds as the popular varieties can go out of stock.
If you’re thinking about transplants, consider which plants you’ll buy when the time comes. You can consider buying plants easy to grow as a beginner.
This is the time to get the seeds that you need. You should read the seed packets and make a plan. This includes the time it takes to start seeds and by when the plants will be ready.
The plan should be based on the last frost date. You should understand the germination rates and the time it takes from seed to growing leaves.
You can write this information on post-it notes and stick them to seed packets.
Consider buying the necessary things like potting mix, trays, and seed pots. You can sharpen the tools or buy ones you need like pruners, shovel, rake, hoe, and gloves.
If the soil is workable, you can plant root vegetables like asparagus, artichokes, horseradish.
You can start seeds for cold-season vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale, and lettuce.
This is the time to check the soil in your garden. If the pH level is not good, it can be amended before the growing season.
You can use organic compost to improve the soil. This proves a boost to the perennial plants as well. You need to turn the compost into the soil and rake it smooth.
If the soil in your garden is not good, you can create raised beds with good soil.
If the temperature in the soil is above 40F, you can plant the cold-season vegetable seedlings.
You can start seeds indoors for warm-season plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, sweet corn, peppers, okra.
You should check the soil temperature. When it reaches above 60F you can plant warm-season crops.
If you’ve started seeds, you can transplant them. Or you need to get the required seedlings to transplant.
You can start some early-season crops with transplants such as carrots, radishes, lettuce, peas, beets. You can transplant such plants when it’s overcast.
You need to make sure to harden the plants before fully transplanting them.
Slowly keep them in a little bit more sun every day till they are ready to move out. Make sure to water them well.
Add a layer of mulch to protect them from weeds and keep the moisture in. If they dry out the plants will die.
This is the season where there’ll be a lot of sun and long days. The cold-season crops like lettuce, spinach, broccoli will be ready for harvest.
When the temperature is above 70F you can plant the warm-season crops. These include plants like tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant, beans, cucumber.
Make sure to give them plenty of water as it will be hot during this season. Mulch the soil to protect them from weeds and keep the moisture in the soil.
If planting directly into the soil wait till the seedlings have grown a bit before adding the mulch. Make sure to thin out the seedlings before you add the mulch.
Watch the plants for pests and diseases so you can take care of them immediately. You can get rid of the parts that may be diseased. The pests can be taken care of by hand or organic methods.
You can harvest from the cool-season and warm-season plants you’ve already planted.
You need to maintain the already growing plants. Take out the weeds and add organic compost.
Add bamboo stakes for the plants that need support. You can plant more warm-season plants for further harvest.
It’s best to harvest in the morning or evening when the plants are least stressed.
You can continue to harvest the cold-season crops like carrots, beets, and cauliflower.
You can amend the soil if compost if required. You can add more warm-season vegetable seeds if you need more harvests.
Prune the plants that need pruning like tomatoes. Keep adding bamboo stakes to plants that need support.
Keep watering the plants so they get plenty of moisture. Add mulch to areas in the garden where it may have reduced. Look out for weeds, pests, diseases and take care of them.
You’ll have lots of vegetables ready for harvest during this season. If you have a surplus harvest, you can distribute it to friends, family, neighbors, and people in need.
This is almost the end of summer. You can take note of the successes and failures you had in the growing season.
You can keep harvesting from the plants in the garden.
Remove fallen fruits and foliage from the garden to prevent pests and diseases. Take care of any weeds, pests, and diseases in the garden
This is the time when the weather starts getting colder. The warm-season vegetables like tomatoes will suffer if frost occurs.
You can extend the growing season with row covers or cold frames. You can plan the garden beds for the next growing season.
You can amend the soil for the next growing season. And you can plant the cold-season vegetables for the fall.
Remove the unwanted plants and dead, fallen fruits and foliage to prevent pests and diseases.
You can continue to grow cold-season vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale, beets, and lettuce.
Keep harvesting the crops that are already grown and ready.
If the weather becomes too cold, you can use row covers made from polyester to keep the plants warm.
Continue to remove garden debris with a rake. Remove the dried leaves and put them into the compost pile.
You can add organic matter to the compost pile as long as it’s not diseased.
You can clean the garden tools and store them in a dry place. Remove the stakes and cages used for plants and store them away.
You can get the seed catalogs for planning the next growing season.
Continue to water the cool-season vegetables growing in the garden. And continue harvesting the plants that are ready.
You can add amendments or organic compost to the garden beds.
If there are still cool-season plants growing. continue taking care of them. This includes watering, harvesting, and weeding them.
If not, there’s nothing to do than relax so you can start fresh next year.
This is the time to begin your gardening ideas.
You can start thinking about when to begin your garden and the plants you want to grow in them.
That’s the first step towards growing the plants you want and creating your best garden ever.
The important thing is to start. That’s the key to success.
It’s important to know when to plant the particular vegetables you want to grow to get the best chances of successfully growing and harvesting them. I’ve written a post covering all the basics you need for vegetable container gardening.
Here are some of my favorite container gardening tools
Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helps you with your gardening needs. I’ve listed some tools below that can help you with container gardening. These are affiliate links so I’ll earn a commission if you use them.
Gardening Gloves – I find the Pine Tree Tools Bamboo Gardening Gloves really good for both men and women. It’s made from bamboo so helps absorb perspiration. They are also comfortable and fit very well.
Containers – You know picking the right container is crucial for your container gardening. I’ve written a detailed post on the best containers you can choose from. If you’re happy with a plastic container, you can check out the Bloem Saturn Planter.
Watering Can – This is a must-have tool when you’re growing plants in pots or grow bags. It helps to water the potting soil without splashing on the foliage. The Kensington Watering Can is stylish, strong, and can provide precision when watering potted plants.
Trowel – Garden Guru Trowel is my favorite because it’s durable and comfortable to use. My gardening friends really love having a trowel because they use it for digging soil, mixing fertilizer, moving seeds, leveling out the soil, mixing compost or mulch, and also dividing tubers
Bypass Pruner – I really like the Corona Bypass Pruner because it’s durable and gives a clean cut that helps plants recover faster. If you’re looking for something cheap, get the Fiskars Bypass Pruner that is really good as well.
To see an extensive list of the best container gardening tools gardeners recommend, check out this resource that I made for you.
Kevin is the founder of Gardening Mentor, a website that aims to teach people to grow their own food in a limited space. As a self-taught gardener, Kevin has spent several years growing plants and creating gardening content on the website. He is certified in Home Horticulture and Organic Gardening by expert gardeners from Oregon State University.