How to Garden: When to Plant

Corey —  April 14, 2010

       Knowing when to plant is one of the keys to having a successful garden. However, it’s not an exact science. But with a combination of knowing your average last spring frost date and general guidelines for each plant you can get a good idea of when it’s best to plant your vegetables and fruits.

Average Last Spring Frost Date

       Your average last spring frost date tells when when you can be fairly certain the chance of frost is low. This is important because some plants can’t handle frost and will die if exposed to those low temperatures. You can find out the average last spring frost date in your area by calling your local Cooperative Extension office, which you can find on the USDA’s website.

       However, I found the average last spring frost date for my area quite easily on the National Climatic Data Center’s website. Their charts will also show you the average first fall frost dates as well.

       In finding the average spring frost date, pick your state and then a city near you. Look at the 32 degree row and then find the corresponding date under the 50% probability column and the 10% probability column. Using the 50% probability date there’s only a 50% chance it will frost after that date. If you want to play it safe, go for the 10% probability date (meaning only a 10% chance of frost after that date). These dates are based on information gathered from 1971 to 2000.

When to Plant What

       After you know the average last spring frost date for your area, you simply need to know which plants like it cold and which ones don’t. Here’s a summary of when to plant what:

Very Early Spring (4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date)

  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Onions (sets)
  • Garlic
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Potatoes
  • Chives

Early Spring (2 to 4 weeks before the last frost date)

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Dill

Mid-Spring (at or just after the last frost date)

  • Green Beans
  • Corn

Late Spring (2 to 4 weeks after the last frost date)

  • Cucumbers
  • Cantaloupe/Muskmelon
  • Watermelon
  • Sweet & Hot Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Summer Squash
  • Pumpkins
  • Eggplant

       Finally, if you’d like more information about specific plants I recommend Harvest to Table’s articles on “how to grow…” and their archives. Obviously there’s more to gardening than choosing a general method and knowing when to plant, so you can use Harvest to Table as a resource for your more specific questions. I’ll continue to add more articles about gardening, but since we’re already into the season this year I wanted to give you a more comprehensive resource. Happy gardening!



Corey is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in religion. While he enjoys learning and writing about Christianity, another one of his new passions is writing about personal finances in order to help others make wise decisions with their money.

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    […] Williams from Provident Planning presents How to Garden: When to Plant, and says, “Want to start gardening, but not sure when to plant? Use this article for a handy […]