National Gardening Association

Provided By: National Gardening Association

Mound Dirt Around Plant for Support
Although it can be tempting to try to get a jump on the gardening season during an early warm spell, it's best to be patient and wait until the weather is right to plant.

Step 1: Learn Last Spring Frost Date for Region

You can check with a gardening neighbor or call your Cooperative Extension office. Since the actual last frost can occur days or weeks before or after the average, always be prepared to protect tender plants for a few weeks after this date has passed.

Step 2: Mark Average Last Frost Date on Calendar

You'll be counting backwards from that date for cool-season crops that can be set out before the last frost date, and counting forward for heat-loving crops.

Step 3: Make Your Planting List

Consult seed packets or other resources to determine whether crops should be sown directly in the garden, or started indoors (or purchased as transplants). Determine the cold-tolerance of the crops, too. Broccoli, for example, tolerates cool weather and can take a light frost. Tomatoes, on the other hand, need warmth.

Step 4: Mark Planting Dates on Calendar

Mark dates for indoor seed-starting, dates for sowing in the garden, and dates for transplanting seedlings into the garden. The following cool-season crops can be planted a few weeks before the average last frost date: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, lettuce and spinach. For the following warm-season plants, wait until after the last frost date to sow seeds in the garden or set plants outdoors: cucumbers, melons, peppers, squash and tomatoes.

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