Best Time to Plant a Garden

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Many homeowners choose to plant a garden to provide fruits, vegetables and herbs for their family. It is important to plant a garden at the proper time to avoid crop loss and provide adequate time during the growing season.

Find your area's average last frost date

  • Use online or local resources (such as your local Cooperative Extension office) to determine what the last frost date in your area is. Use that date to determine and plan your planting schedule. Some tender young plants will not be hurt by frost (spinach, lettuce), while other plants like tomatoes and squash will be killed by frost.

Decide what seeds and plants to grow

  • Some vegetables are best planted in early spring--as soon as the ground can be broken (such as onions, peas and spinach). Other vegetables and herbs can be planted a little later in early spring (including lettuce, carrots, dill and potatoes) while others must wait until after the last frost date (squash, tomatoes, pumpkins and basil).

    When choosing planting dates, it is also important to be aware of the expected harvest dates. Pumpkins in particular are usually planted around the end of June to ensure a Halloween harvest.

    Remember to plan for second and third plantings of your favorites. Corn can be planted in different locations during subsequent weeks throughout the summer for a longer and staggered harvest.

Get your plants

  • Once you have determined the last frost date and what you wish to grow in your garden, decide if you will start your own seeds or wait to buy ready-to-plant vegetables, fruits or herbs at local garden centers. If you plan to start your own seeds, start them indoors about six weeks before the date you want to plant outside. Choose seeds and plants that can be planted in companion with each other for greater benefit to each other in flavor and pest control (tomatoes and carrots are beneficial to each other when planted together).

Pay attention to weather when planting

  • Seeds, seedlings and established plants do better when planted during good weather. Don't plant during a dry, hot spell as the ground will be harder to work with and the heat can be too much for a newly-transplanted seedling or established plant.

    On the opposite side, don't plant immediately after extended heavy rains as the dirt will clump together and will be waterlogged which could increase the potential for disease.

Plant early in the day

  • Plant seeds, seedlings and established plants early in the day, before the heat is overwhelming. Young plants can easily wilt and go into shock if transplanted when it is too hot. Water your plants and seedlings thoroughly before planting. Never transplant a plant that is dry.

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