Last Updated on December 1, 2023
When is the best time to plant a garden?
The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for when you should start planting in your garden. It depends on where you live and what kind of plants you want to grow. If you don’t know much about gardening or where to start, that’s okay! We can help.
Here are some tips to help you plan out your spring and summer garden based on what grows well in different regions around the country. We’ll answer the question, when is the best time to plant plants? Let’s get started!
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The Best Time to Plant a Garden in the U.S.
When it comes to planning out your garden, timing is everything. In fact, this might be the most important step of all. As a new gardener, the best thing you can do is plan ahead.
What’s more, there isn’t one best time to plant a garden for everyone. You have to take into account where you live and what grows well in your area.
Let’s start by breaking down the United States into five regions: Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West Coast. (Obviously, there are more than five distinct climate regions but these are the most common.) So when is the best time to plant plants in each of these areas?
Keep in mind that this is just a general planting guide, my gardening friend. It is always wise to do three things before purchasing your seeds or plants:
- Know the frost patterns in your area. In general, you want to wait two weeks after the last frost before planting your flowers and vegetables. If you know what frost zone you live in you’ll have a very good guideline to follow. Or, check this chart that shows frost dates in larger cities across the country.
- Use a planting calendar – our friends at Alamanac.com have a wonderful resource that is created for you based on your zip code. It includes guidelines for spring planting, fall planting, and when to start your seed indoors, when to plant/transplant seedlings, and when to start seeds outdoors.
- Talk to the knowledgeable folks at your local garden center. They’ll be able to guide you as a new gardener in a very local sense.
When Is The Best Time To Plant Plants?
Let’s break it down by region, and discuss when is the best time to plant vegetables, and when it is the best time to plant flowers in your garden.
First, though, let’s talk about vegetables in terms of ‘warm weather’ and ‘cool weather’.
There are some vegetables that can be planted early in the season. Those are the cool weather plants.
It could be a couple of weeks before the last frost date, but sometimes even sooner. They can handle the colder temperatures and sometimes need that in order to grow in a healthy way.
Cool season plants are usually started from seed.
The warm season plants need higher temperatures and warmer soil. They will always be planted after the last frost date. Warm weather plants have just one growing season, and that is from late spring to late summer.
Warm weather, or warm season vegetables can include Tomatoes, watermelon, summer and winter squash, sweet potatoes, corn, cucumbers, beans, peppers, and zucchini.
Cool weather, or cool season vegetables can include spinach, radishes, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, onions, peas, turnips, beets, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts.
When to plant vegetables and flowers in the Northeast
The northeast climate region, which includes states like Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts – can grow just about anything.
Generally, it’s best to start planting your warm-weather vegetables around late April or early May, with early summer being the optimum time to get the garden into full swing.
Ready to plant your annual flowers? June is the time for those as well, as well as planting your perennial seeds.
When to plant vegetables and flowers in the Southeast
The southeast climate region, which includes states like North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida, can grow just about anything, all year. You will notice that a lot of people from this area have a ‘backyard garden.’ This is especially true in the Deep South.
And it’s great that they do because veggies can be expensive to buy at the grocery store! To take advantage of hot, humid summers you’ll want to start planting warm-weather vegetables around March and continue through May. This is the spring planting time.
Fall planting occurs, in general, from the middle of July through September.
When to plant vegetables and flowers in the Midwest
The Midwest climate region, which includes states like Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio, is a little trickier. The growing season is shorter because of the cold, hard winters and short summers in this area of the country.
April and May are the times to begin outdoor plantings of seedlings and transplants, although you may want to consider starting seeds indoor during the month of March.
Once the last frost has passed, which could be into early May, you can get your garden into full swing.
When to plant vegetables and flowers in the Southwest
The southwest climate region, which includes states like New Mexico, Arizona, and southern California, can be warm year-round, but it can also be very dry.
March is a busy time for your vegetable garden, including tomato plants, eggplant, and peppers.
Your two major concerns (besides what you want to plant!) are the soil composition and keeping your garden watered properly.
You’ll find some helpful tips for gardening in the southwest here.
When to plant vegetables and flowers on the West Coast
The west coast climate region, which includes states like Washington, Oregon and California – is very similar to the southwest. You can plant just about anything at any time of year! Just remember….to water them regularly because it’s so dry out west.
You can start seedling plantings indoors in January, and as long as there is no frost in your area, plant in the ground in February.
Growing Herbs: Starting with Seeds Indoors
How to start growing herbs from seeds indoors:
Most gardeners wait until the end of March or very early April to start growing their herbs from seeds indoors to get a head start with the herb garden. You can choose from a wide variety of herbs and you’ll only need a few seeds to get started.
Some great herb varieties include: dill, basil, cilantro, parsley, summer savory, rosemary, thyme, chives, and oregano. Most herb seeds can be started indoors in a small container with soil no larger than 4 inches deep.
If the weather is going to be warm – at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit – then you can put your pots outside to harden-off the plants before transplanting them.
Growing Herbs: transplanting from indoors
How to transplant herbs that you started indoors: You can generally transplant your indoor-grown herbs 6 weeks after the average last frost date in your area.
The only thing to keep in mind is that some herb varieties – like basil – can get leggy very quickly if they get too much sun. So make sure you trim them every week or so before the plants flower.
Preparing for Fall Planting
Planting in your garden isn’t just for spring and summer months. A fall garden can be a wonderful thing, including fall bulbs, plants, and vegetables. The cooler temperatures can make it a bit more pleasant to work in the garden, especially in early fall.
Vegetables that can be planted in the fall
In general, the following vegetables can be planted in the fall:
- Lettuce (leaf)
- Carrots (planted late summer for a fall harvest) (seed crop – planted spring/summer for a fall harvest – can be harvested in the fall)
- Parsnips (planted late summer for a fall harvest)
- Onions (planted early spring or late summer/fall for a winter/spring harvest) (seed crop – planted spring/summer for a fall harvest – can be harvested in the fall)
- Garlic (planted late summer for a fall harvest)
Things to remember about fall planting:
Fall is the time of year where your plants will begin transitioning into winter.
Make sure your garden still receives plenty of water because it’s harder for them to draw up moisture from the soil when it’s cold outside. This can be especially true if there hasn’t been much rainfall during the weeks leading up to fall planting
Factors to consider before any type of planting
As a newbie gardener, there are some basics you need to consider before grabbing the trowel and placing the little plants in the ground. First of all, you need to know what kind of soil you’re planting in.
If it’s not very rich and organic then your plants won’t grow as strong as they should be. Also, consider how much sunlight they’ll get each day and make sure they’ll be able to handle that amount perfectly.
You also need to understand the frost dates in your area, as mentioned previously. If you plant during a time when there’s a chance of frost, your plants could die.
The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map will help you determine the last frost date for your area so you’ll feel confident that it is time to start planting seeds in the garden.
The final thing to consider before planting is the amount of water that your region gets on average. You don’t want to place delicate plants in an area that’s already pretty hot and dry.
A planting calendar can be so helpful, especially as a new gardener. Most gardeners rely on a similar type of system, at least at first, when they are learning the ins and outs of a successful garden. Here is a helpful planting calendar resource.
Lastly – and this might be the most obvious one – you need to think about how much water the plants will need. Some may require more than others, so it’s important to take that into account before making your purchase.
Tips to keep your garden healthy and thriving
Once you know when it’s time to plant, the next crucial step is making sure your garden stays healthy throughout the whole summer. The best way to do that is by adding good soil. You can buy bags at your local store or find some compostable materials in your backyard.
Check your soil first by following these simple steps:
- soak some soil with a hose and let it sit for a day
- dig up a handful and squeeze it, hard
- if water comes out you may need to add compost
- if it won’t form a ball, the soil might be very sandy and you need to add some organic material
- if the soil just sticks together it might have clay in it, so add some organic matter (leaves or even some sawdust
- when it crumbles, it is just right
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You should also make a point of not over-watering your plants. The best way to do this is by using a moisture meter or by sticking your finger in the soil up until the second knuckle.
The final things you need to think about are bugs and pests because they can really destroy all of your hard work! Make sure you keep the pesky insects at bay by planting natural pest deterrents around your garden. There are also some non-toxic insecticides, like neem oil, that you can use if needed.
Allocate time to care for your garden, including weeding when necessary. You don’t want your precious veggies and flowers to be choked out. Regular weeding will keep things under control and not take up too much of your time.
In case all of this seems a little too much – don’t worry! If anything it will give you a great reason to get outside and enjoy the weather. And when fall comes around again, you’ll have a brand new garden to look forward to.
As a new gardener, it’s important to understand the different factors you need to consider before planting any type of plant in your garden. This includes knowing what kind of soil you have, how much sunlight they’ll get, understanding the frost dates in your area, and making sure you’re not planting during a time when there’s a chance of frost.
Once you know all of that information, it will be easier for you to choose which plants are best suited for your specific region and climate. In addition to following these tips, make sure you keep your garden healthy by adding good soil, watering them correctly, and using natural pest deterrents.