Those of us with a green thumb know all too well how tempting it can be to start gardening early. And if you’ve ever given in to that temptation, you know how disastrous the results can be. There’s nothing worse than planting a crop of home vegetables only to have them wiped out by frost, so follow this basic guide to get your plants off on the right foot.
Prepare your garden soil for planting, but wait until it has thawed completely and is dry enough to work with. Soil should crumble when you squeeze it in your hand. If it sticks together in a solid ball, it’s still too wet.
Start seeds for warm-season vegetables indoors. Tomatoes, peppers, beans, eggplant, cucumbers many other tender vegetables can be planted in indoor containers 6 to 8 weeks before the last average spring frost date for your region.
Plant hardy cool-season vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and turnips as soon as the soil is dry enough to work with. These crops can withstand frost and sub-freezing temperatures. Wait until the end of the month to plant semi-hardy crops like carrots, cauliflower and potatoes. These plants can tolerate a mild frost, but can still be damaged by an extended period of sub-freezing temperatures.
If you’ve planted warm-season crops indoors, begin hardening them off by bringing them outside on warm days. This will get them used to conditions like wind, direct sunlight and fluctuating temperatures, making them more likely to survive when you eventually transplant them to your garden.
Plant warm-season vegetables after all danger of frost has passed. Choose the strongest seedlings, and be prepared to cover your crop in the event of an unusually late frost.
Thin out the seedlings of earlier planted crops if necessary. Weed and water as needed.
Keep in mind, the actual conditions in your garden are more important than dates on the calendar, and climates vary drastically by region. Spring frost dates can be days or even weeks apart within a fairly small area, and you can find dates for your region in the Old Farmer’s Almanac.