When to plant a garden.

So you’ve decided you want to plant a garden? Great! Welcome to one of the most rewarding hobbies ever! Be careful, it might just take over your life and become a lifestyle.

Not scared off? Good.

But getting started can feel complicated. The big question hovering over you: “When is the best time to start a garden?” We’ll answer that question and give you some tips for your first garden. Keep reading!

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Plant Vegetables According to Frost Dates

You may see gardeners talk about the “zone” that they’re in. Your gardening zone is more about perennial plant hardiness than when you can plant annuals.

Most vegetables are annuals, so this isn’t as important as your frost dates. 
You can calculate your frost dates here. Your average last frost tells you how soon you can plant in the spring. Your first average frost tells you how late into the summer and early fall you can plant.

Any seedlings or seeds you purchase will have information on when to plant in relation to these dates. You can also use a guide like this one to help you plan your garden for the fall or spring season.

Sliding Garden Planner showing the fall side. Average first frost date is lined up with the end of October to demonstrate how the guide works.
A sliding calendar like this one helps me plan my planting dates.

Now all you have to do is determine what kind of garden you can plant based on the time of year it is now.

Spring Vegetable Garden

Most people think of gardens as something we start in the spring. And they’re right!

But depending on what (and when) you’re planting, you may be planting your Spring Garden or your Summer Garden.

Your spring garden is your cold-hardy vegetables that you plant in early spring. Cool-season crops like onions, carrots, green peas, cabbage, spinach, and lettuce. These veggies don’t thrive in the heat, so they’re planted before your average last frost.

Your summer garden has your warm-season vegetables. Things like peppers, tomatoes, beans, summer squash, cucumber, and okra. These veggies need to be planted after your average last frost, and be prepared to protect the seedlings if you have a sudden late cold snap!

Fall and Winter Garden

You actually plant your fall garden in the summer! (Are you sensing a theme of always thinking ahead?) The same cold-tolerant veggies can be grown again in the fall, but they need time before it gets too cold.

One big factor with your fall garden is protecting those heat-intolerant seedlings from the summer weather. A low tunnel can be very useful for this, and you can read about them here.

Start a Vegetable Planting Calendar

No matter what time of year it is right now, you can get started planning your next garden and set yourself up for success.

Get a calendar. Any calendar will do, even an old dated one. It just has to be one you will use.

A woman holding a tablet with a Garden Journal template on Notion.

If you prefer digital, you can check out this garden journal I made for Notion.

Write your last and first frost dates on the correct days.

Now every time you decide on something you want to plant in your garden, calculate the time to plant according to your frost dates and write it down.

Make note of things like when to start seeds indoors, when to transplant, and when to plant seeds directly into the garden soil. Eventually, you’ll have a calendar of planting dates that you can use year after year to help you know when to take care of these planting tasks throughout the growing season.

Start A Garden Now!

No matter what time of year it is, if you’re interested enough to be reading this article, the best time to start your garden is now.

No matter where you live, you can grow something. Start small with a raised bed or two or some garden pots. Every year, you can expand as you gain experience.

If it’s the dead of winter, find a sunny windowsill and start growing some herbs inside. But do something to stay in this growing mindset you’ve already started cultivating!

I’ve been gardening casually for 10 years, but only got serious about 3 years ago. And I’ve learned a lot in these last 3 years. Gardening has a learning curve, so my best advice is to start now!

My grandma told me recently that even though she and “Papa” grew up with gardens, it was about 3 years before they started seeing real success!

Start with what you can where you’re at. And let it expand from there. This is an amazing journey you’re starting on!

Want to read more? Check out this post with my top tips for beginner gardeners!

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