When to plant what vegetables in the garden
There is no universal calendar to guide you to planting your veggies at the correct time, largely because it is so climate and temperature-dependent!
Depending on your gardening zone, your low temperatures in the winter, last frost date, and high temperatures in the summer will dictate what and when to plant for a thriving garden.
Here is a cheat-sheat of how to know when to plant certain veggies no matter where you live.
What veggies to plant in early spring
In most places, the early spring means temperatures that still dip below freezing (32F or 0C) with some regularity. If you live in California this may be just for a week in January, or if you live in the midwest this might be as late as March or April.
Early spring is a good time to plan your garden because there is not much that will thrive in harsh weather. It’s a good idea to plan out your earliest crops, and even start your spring garden indoors.
You can begin indoor sowing seeds for cold-tolerant plants that you will transplant once the ground has thawed. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and other cold-tolerant greens are good options to get an early start on so you can have a quicker harvest once the temperatures warm up a little bit.
What veggies to plant once the ground has thawed
The party really gets started once the ground has thawed! In some areas, this might be in January or February, while in other places you will have to wait until late March or April.
Once the ground has thawed, even before your last frost date, you can plant your favorite root vegetables like carrots, beets, and radishes. You can also direct sow cold-tolerant lettuces, kale, chard, and other greens, and you can transplant the indoor plants you started like broccoli and cauliflower.
As the spring begins to warm up, now is the time to get started on the plants that like a lot of time to mature before being transplanted. This includes things like bell peppers, which should be started around 10 weeks before your last frost date, and around 6-8 weeks before the last frost date you should be planting tomatoes, eggplant, and similar veggies.
What veggies to plant right before the last frost date
I like having carrots and beets for as long as possible, so I always plant another round soon before the last frost date. You can also continue to plant your favorite lettuces to have early summer harvests. A month or so before the last frost dates, you can also get started on peas and some herbs like cilantro and parsley which can tolerate a light frost.
This is your last call for veggies like tomatoes, eggplant, and ground cherries in most places in the country! If you wait any longer to start your seeds, you may risk having your harvest time cut short by cooler fall weather.
Again, this varies from climate to climate, and if you have long, warm summers you can get away with starting things for your mid-to-late summer garden in the late spring.
What veggies to plant soon after the last frost date
After your last frost date, it is safe to plant your tomatoes and peppers. It’s a good idea to wait at least a week or two before transplanting at the off-chance that the weather dips back down to (or close to) freezing. There is no worse feeling than nurturing seedlings and sending them off into the earth, only for them to be killed by a surprise cold snap.
Soon after the last frost date, you can also direct sow things like beans and corn, which don’t like to be started indoors.
After your last frost date, you can think about things that you want to grow in the late summer and early fall to start sowing indoors.
What veggies to plant once the soil has warmed
There are some plants that not only can’t tolerate temperatures below freezing, but they won’t survive or thrive until the soil is much warmer. Once the soil has warmed to at least 50 degrees (or 70 degrees for some plants), you can start planting your heat-loving summer crops. This includes things like basil, melon, squash, and cucumbers.
If you are planting more lettuces and greens, make sure that they are heat tolerant or planted in a safe shady area.
It’s time to start thinking about your fall garden already! You can get a jump on transplant-friendly veggies and do another round of greens, broccoli, and cauliflower.
What veggies to plant in the early fall
In the early fall, you can repeat a lot of the veggies you planted in the spring well before the last frost date.
There is not much you can start in the early fall indoors and still plant outside unless you live somewhere that is warm year-round.
Typically seeds that are sown indoors are transplanted outside 4-10 weeks later, which will be later in the fall or in early winter. For a late crop of greens, you can still sow cold-tolerant lettuces and spinach and transplant them in time to enjoy a late fall crop.
What veggies to plant in the late fall
It’s garlic planting time! Garlic is typically planted in November and overwintered. You can also overwinter root vegetables like beets, carrots, and turnips. Most veggies will not survive the winter unless you live in a particularly warm climate.
Again, there is not much to start indoors in the late fall. You can continue to start plants that you plan on keeping inside, like a window herb garden or microgreens.
Now that you know when to plant what vegetables in the garden, you can really start planning! In some areas, you will have a nearly endless season, and in others, you will have to plan meticulously because you will have very narrow windows of opportunity in a short growing season.