When to plant what? – The answer to that question in our area seems to be very simple: on the May long weekend. This has to do with our last frost day, which is around May 25, and the Canadian Victoria day, a holiday that happens to be around the last frost day. Many gardeners here have followed this rule for many years more or less successfully. So why not to follow this general rule?
3 good reasons not to follow the general rule
1. There are plants that could and should be planted long before the last frost day. Plants like spinach, that do better in cooler conditions. Plants like Broccoli, that should be harvested before the cabbage butterfly lays eggs (late July – early August). And plants like onions that need to be started cool and have a longer growing time. Those are all winter crops that do not mind some frost, especially when young. Other winter crops are Kale, cabbage, parsley, peas, cauliflower, lettuce, beets, carrots (partly), radishes, swiss chard (and there are more).
2. But there are also plants that should be planted after the last frost day. Those are summer crops and grow much better in warmer soil. Cold and rainy weather that so often occurs right after the last frost day can harm or even kill them. Eggplants and peppers, along with cucumbers and squash, do better if planted after the last frost day when the weather is really nice and warm.
3. It is a lot of work to plant everything in one go. Even if there would be no other reason to plant plants at different times, this would be a big one for us. I can totally understand when gardeners complain about gardening being such a hard work if they plant everything at the same time and then weed the whole garden at the same time (as is the case if you plant everything at the same time), and then have to harvest everything pretty much at the same time, too. We like things simple: plant, weed, harvest – all staggered over a time period – that way gardening is fun.
Northern Planting Schedule
The weather in our area is very unpredictable. In the years we have been living here we have experienced -20C = -4F in late April and snow in early June. To go by a planting date is almost impossible. There are some guidelines but they are all dependent on the weather. Nevertheless, it is worth to watch the weather and to plant as soon as possible and as late as needed.
Late April: Spinach, peas, onions, lettuce, parsley, kale, and transplants from the whole cabbage family (Broccoli, cauliflower, …).
Early May: Beets, carrots (some like warmer weather, so plant some now, and some later), radishes, swiss chard.
Late May: Carrots, beans, corn (does not grow well here, but it’s worth a try), squash (zucchini), potatoes, tomatoes transplants (might need protection).
Early June: Transplants: Cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, squash (winter).
Expanding the growing season This is a topic for a whole new post, but it is worth mentioning it here. We like to extend the growing season and we find it is simplest to do so in the spring. Young, small plants are relatively easy to cover. The most fun to extend the growing season is with a greenhouse.
Do you have the courage to break some general rules? Have an exiting gardening season!
Companion Planting for the Kitchen Gardener: Tips, Advice, and Garden Plans for a Healthy Organic Garden
You may also like the Spring Indoor Seed-Starting Schedule.