Ready, Set, Grow! When to Start Your Garden

Even though I’ve grown a vegetable garden for many years now, I always find myself wondering around this time of year, “When should I start my garden?” I know from experience that it’s usually still too early when this question starts popping into mind. When winter is cold or wet or gray, or all three, my soul yearns for warmth, sun and green — lots of green things. So I want to plant. But planting too early can be a waste of time and money. It helps to be informed and let reason trump emotion.

Photo by Jane Coclasure courtesy of P. Allen Smith.

Knowing when to plant really depends on the spring frost date for your area, and it can vary by as much as three months depending on where you live. For example, in Mobile, Ala., the spring frost date is February 28, while in Marquette, Mi., it’s May 11. Whether you call Mobile or Marquette or Manchester, N.H., home, know your frost dates to know when to plant. Frost dates are based on probability and historical data, so they’re not a sure bet, but they’re a best guess. Search here for yours.

Check seed packets closely for more information about when to plant. Info will often be based around your frost dates.
That doesn’t mean you should plant everything on that date. Check your seed packets for more info. For example, my spring frost date in Knoxville, Tenn., is April 16. (I can remember this because it’s my sister’s birthday.) I love growing peas (they’re easy and tasty), which, according to my seed packet info, should be sown 4 to 6 weeks before my spring frost date. So, backing up on my calendar, that puts me at March 5, next weekend, as the earliest date I should plant. I can sow radish and carrot seeds at the same time. These crops, plus onions, arugula and other greens, will make up my spring plantings. Tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and squash will be among my summer crops, planted later in spring after all danger of frost has passed, which, for me, means at or after my frost date, April 16.

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