Vegetable Planting Guide
Knowing what to plant when is imperative if you want your garden to produce to it's full potential and your plants to thrive in their optimum growing seasons. Different plants have a variety of different growing requirements. Most store bought seeds and plants now include "hardiness zones" on the labels that give you a good estimate of their best individual growing seasons according to where you live.
You can visit our "Plant Hardiness Zone Map" page to find out the USDA's 2015-2016 general plant hardiness zones for your area, find the typical "last frost" dates for given zones, and take a look at the American Horticulture Society's "Plant Heat Zone Map" codes, where to find these codes, and how to use them.
You can plant or harvest something from your garden nearly all year long. The two major planting periods, however, are spring (March to May) and fall (mid-July to September). Spring plantings are generally harvested in June and July, while the fall plantings are generally harvested from October to December.
Vegetables can be divided into two categories based on temperature requirements: cool-season and warm-season crops.
Cool-season vegetables originated in temperate climates and have their favorable growth period during the cool parts of the year. Cool-season crops grow poorly in summer heat. Many cool-season vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, produce their best flavor and quality when they mature during cool weather. Though cool-season crops continue to grow well past the earliest freeze in the fall, they should be started early enough to mature before hard freezes are expected.
Warm-season crops primarily came from subtropical and tropical regions and require warm weather for seed germination and plant growth. They are injured or killed by freezing temperatures and should not be planted outdoors in the spring without protection or until the danger of freezing temperatures is past. Warm-season crops planted in the summer to mature in the fall should be planted early enough so they can be harvested before the killing freeze in the fall.
Many growers use soil temperature as a guide to start planting. The best rule of thumb for warm-season crops is to plant as early as conditions (soil and temperature) allow. Planting is not advisable unless the soil temperature at planting depth of 2" is near 50° F or above. Soil condition is of course a key factor in how well your garden will produce.
Vegetable Planting Guide By Season
Planting seasons for each plant at a glance:
Plants thrive best where mild winters and cool, foggy summers prevail. In such growing conditions, they are perennials, yielding harvests for up to 5 years. Where winters dish up only a few frosty nights, plants will sometimes overwinter when pruned and mulched (zones 7 to 9). In colder regions, you have to treat artichokes as annuals planted in spring. They are best planted in fall in the humid, subtropical, frost-free areas of zones 10 and 11.
Asparagus can be planted in spring after the soil has warmed up to about 50 degrees F. There is no advantage to planting the crowns in cold, wet soils. They will not grow until the soil warms and there is danger of the plants being more susceptible to Fusarium crown rot if crowns are exposed to cold, wet soils over a prolonged period. Plant the asparagus at either the west or north side of the garden so that it will not shade the other vegetables and will not be injured when the rest of the garden is tilled.
Broccoli is a hardy vegetable that develops best during cool seasons of the year. Two crops per year (spring and fall) are possible in most parts of the country, especially with continuous improvement in fast maturity and heat tolerance that extends the life of broccoli through all but the hottest parts of the season. It belongs to the cole crop family (Brassica oleracea), which includes cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, kale, and kohlrabi.
Brussels sprouts are a slow-growing, long-bearing crop that needs cool weather. The ideal climate is the “fog belt” of the Pacific Northwest, but they will grow in just about any part of the country. Plant in spring and mid- to late summer for a crop that matures in the fall. The small heads mature best in cool and even in light frosty weather. Spring planting is also fine in cooler climates. Be aware that sprouts maturing in hot or dry weather will be flimsy and bitter. Brussels sprouts belong to the cole crop family (Brassica oleracea), which includes cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, and kohlrabi.
Cabbage is a cool-season vegetable suited to both spring and fall. It belongs to the cole crop family (Brassica oleracea), which includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, kale, and kohlrabi. The trick to growing cabbage is steady, uninterrupted growth. That means rich soil, plenty of water, and good fertilization.
Don’t plant until the ground temperature is above 70 degrees F, which typically occurs about the time peonies bloom in northern zones. The key is plenty of moisture, sunlight, and heat. Melons demand two to three months of heat, which makes growing them in northern regions challenging, but not impossible. By using a black ground cover to warm soil and floating row covers to trap warm air near plants, gardeners in any part of the country can count on cutting into the homegrown goodness of melons.
Although carrots can endure summer heat in many areas, they grow best when planted in early spring. Midsummer plantings, that mature quickly in cool fall weather, produce tender, sweet "baby" carrots that are much prized.
Set out spring transplants early enough so that they can mature before the heat of summer but not so early that they are frozen; 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost is about right.
Set out fall crops about 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost. Be prepared to shade them, if needed, to protect from heat.
Collards are a leafy, cool-weather vegetable very popular for cooked greens. However, collards grow well throughout the country. A relative of cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and kale, this upright, dark green, waxy plant is a little like a cabbage that doesn’t make a head. It is one of the most cold-hardy of all vegetables, able to withstand temperatures in the upper teens. In Zone 8 and southward, collards often provide a harvest through the entire winter. You can plant them in spring and fall, although collards planted in fall gardens are favored because the leaves are sweeter when kissed by frost.
Seedlings can be set out as soon as the last spring frost has passed.
A tropical vegetable, cucumbers thrive when the weather is hot and water is plentiful. Plants are so frost-tender that they shouldn’t be set into the garden until soil temperatures are reliably in the 70-degree range (no less than 2 weeks after the last frost date).
Because eggplant really needs warm soil to grow well, gardeners in cool climates often do best growing eggplant in large, dark-colored containers.
13.Kale - Plant Spring, Fall
Cold-hardy and resilient, kale is an easy member of the cabbage family to grow. You can set out plants quite early in spring as long as you protect the young plants from severe cold winds with a cover. They will grow steadily for months until the weather gets too warm. You’ll get a second chance to plant kale in the fall, when cool weather brings out a wonderfully sweet, nutty flavor that is unique to these cold-natured plants. Fall is the best time to plant in areas where winter doesn’t dip below the teens, or in a cold frame farther north, because the leaves are sweeter when they mature in cooler weather.
Kohlrabi is an odd-looking member of the cabbage family grown for its bulb-like stem that tastes like a mild, sweet turnip. You can also eat the leaves. High in fiber and vitamin C, kohlrabi is a fast-growing, cool-season crop for both spring and fall.
15.Leeks - Plant Spring, Fall
Frost-tolerant leeks thrive in cool weather. In Zones 7 and warmer, plants can overwinter in the ground, perfect for fall planting. In northerly zones, tuck plants into beds in early spring, as soon as soil can be worked.
Lettuce grows for many weeks in the mild weather of spring and fall. Leaf lettuce is easy to tuck in between and under taller vegetables, and is perfect for containers.
17.Okra - Plant Spring, Summer
Plants like it when nights are at least in the 60s and days 85 or warmer. In the North, gardeners might wait until late June to plant, since pods appear within 2 months. Okra requires warm weather, but by using seedlings, you can shave 3 weeks or more from its usual long season. As long as okra seedlings are handled gently, as if they were breakable eggs, they can be slipped into the garden – or into large containers – just as the hot season begins.
If you can poke a hole into the ground, you can grow an onion from a little plant. Onions can be planted anytime during the spring.
Peas thrive in cool, damp weather, making them an ideal candidate for early spring planting. In mild climates, you can also plant for a fall harvest, but spring plantings generally yield a greater harvest.Get peas in the ground as soon as possible in early spring. Soil temperature should be at least 45 degrees.
All peppers share a preference for a long, warm growing season. Set out transplants a week or two after your last frost, when the weather is settled and warm. While cool weather reigns, keep your seedlings indoors at night, and move them to a protected sunny spot outdoors during the day.
Potatoes are cool-season crops and can survive light frosts. Plant as soon as soil is workable in early spring.
If your growing season is very short, you'll need to start pumpkins ahead and seed indoors in peat pots about 2 to 4 weeks before last spring frost. (If you want pumpkins for Halloween but live in a colder climate, this may be your best bet.) Harden off seedlings before transplanting outdoors.
The soil must be thoroughly warmed. Optimal soil temperature for germination is 60° to 65ºF. Pumpkins are very sensitive to the cold. Like its cousin the cucumber, pumpkin demands warm, fertile soil for growth.
There are two basic types of radishes- spring and winter. The crunchy spring varieties should be planted in early spring to mature as quickly as possible in cool weather for the best production and quality. Most spring radish varieties mature in less than a month.
Winter radishes require a longer growing period but are superior to spring types in many ways. They hold their quality in the garden longer, store better, and have a more distinctive flavor.
Plant crowns in spring as soon as soil is workable. Rhubarb grows best in zones where the ground freezes in winter. Plants require an extended chilling period with temperatures below 40 degrees to produce a crop of stems. As a result, rhubarb is commonplace in gardens throughout the coldest sections of the country, although it can be grown as far south as Zone 7.
Because rutabaga roots ripen best in cool weather, they need to be planted in time to mature in cool weather. Rutabagas are perfect for a fall crop in cooler regions or as a winter crop in warmer zones. They need about 90 days from transplant to harvest. In cooler regions, count back 90 days from the average date of the first fall frost, which you can find for your area on our fall frost maps. In warmer areas, time fall plantings by waiting until night temperatures are consistently in the 50- to 60-degree range. They also work as an early spring crop in areas where the ground isn’t frozen so that you can plant early; however, they are subject to early warm spells that take away from the sweetness compared to those planted in fall.
Snap beans are annuals. You need to plant them every year and can actually plant some in spring for summer harvest and another crop in late summer for a fall harvest.
In order to grow spinach twice a year, plant it about 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost in the spring, and again 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost in the fall. Spinach is a cool-weather vegetable related to beets and Swiss chard. A fast-growing plant, it yields many leaves in a short time in the mild weather of spring and fall. The trick lies in making spinach last as long as possible, especially in the spring, when lengthening days shorten its life.
28.Squash - Plant Spring, Summer
Because they mature quickly and require warm weather, you can plant them following early spring crops like peas, lettuce, or spinach. Direct sowings any time from spring (after all danger of frost is past) to midsummer works well with most summer squash varieties. In fact, waiting to plant a few seeds in midsummer will help avoid problems from vine borers and other pests and diseases common earlier in the season.
From Zone 6 northward, strawberries are best planted in spring so they will be well-rooted by the following winter. Containers can be replanted in late summer and moved to a cool, protected place such as an unheated garage during the coldest months.
From Zone 7 southward, strawberries are most often planted in fall and grown as renewable hardy annuals. Once a planting is established, simply lift your healthiest plants each September, and replant them in a freshly renovated site.
Unlike regular potatoes, which grow best when the soil is cool, sweet potatoes like it hot! They are tropical plants that are very sensitive to cold weather. In warm climates, many gardeners plant sweet potatoes about a month after the last spring frost, when both the air and soil are dependably warm.
Set out transplants 2 to 4 weeks before the date of the last frost in spring. A spring planting will go on producing through spring, summer, and fall until a hard freeze kills it.
For fall gardens, set out transplants just about anytime in late summer when they begin appearing at your favorite garden center. Plants tolerate heat well as long as you keep them properly watered. Swiss Chard is easy to grow in the ground or in containers and is one of the few greens that tolerates both cool weather and heat. It will linger in the spring garden much longer than mustard, turnips, arugula, or other greens that bolt in spring. In the fall, it grows well until killed by a hard freeze.
Tomatoes run on warmth; plant in late spring and early summer except in Zone 10, where they are a fall and winter crop.
Turnip greens are extremely easy to grow, especially in fall. Set out turnip green transplants 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost in spring and from late August to October for a fall crop in most areas. In zones 9 and 10 they can be planted throughout fall and winter. As nights get longer and cooler, turnip greens become crisper and sweeter. Best of all, a new flush of tender leaves will grow after each picking, with plants remaining productive at least until the first hard freeze, and sometimes beyond.
They also grow in spring, but plant them early. Lengthening days trigger turnip plants to produce flowers and seeds instead of new leaves. Also, a few days of hot sun can make the greens taste strong and bitter in regions where spring gets hot quickly.
Like their cantaloupe cousins, watermelons demand 2 to 3 months of heat to produce ripe fruit, which makes growing them in northern regions challenging but not impossible. Don’t tuck watermelon plants into the garden until soil temperature is above 70 degrees F, which typically occurs about the time peonies bloom in northern zones. To be safe, wait until at least 2 weeks past your area’s last frost date.