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The Key to Knowing WHEN to Plant Your Garden

I used to be so confused and uncertain about when was the right time to plant the garden.  Warm sunny days in the spring would tempt me to get outside and start gardening while the uncertainty of South Dakota weather (where it's always possible to get a late blizzard or an ice storm) would hold me back.

Through years of experience, I have learned something that I hope will help beginner gardeners or those new to our area.

Garden vegetables fall into two categories:

  • Cool season crops should be planted as soon as the soil can be worked.
  • Warm season crops should be planted after danger of frost is passed.

So when exactly is that?

I usually plant cool season crops during the first two weeks in April.  I wait for a warm sunny day in the 60's after the snow has melted and the ground has thawed.  Cool season crops are frost hardy, which means that they can withstand a frost.  

Warm season crops are frost-tender and could be killed by a frost.  These should be planted AFTER the danger of frost has passed (last frost is usually early-mid May in our area).

Why not wait until mid-May and plant everything at the same time (and just get it all done at once!)? 

Cool season crops suffer in the heat of summer and should be planted early in the spring so that they have time to grow before the heat of summer arrives.  For example, if lettuce isn't planted until mid-May, the hot summer days will make it bitter right around the time that it is ready to harvest.  Hot summer days will also make radishes spicy and cause beets to bolt.  These cool season crops thrive during the cool days of spring.

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Thanks for the list of cool vs warm season crops. I intuitively knew about the difference, but this is the first time someone spelled it out for me.

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