Growing food

Best Month To Grow Vegetables – Depending On Hardiness Zone

The best month to grow vegetables will depend on the type of vegetable, where you live, your specific garden, and the growing methods you have chosen. But as you learn more about common annual fruits and vegetables, you can build up a better understanding and learn what vegetables to grow each month where you live.

The best month to plant them is somewhere between April and July for most vegetables in temperate climates. There are, however, some vegetables you can plant even in October or November and harvest them next spring. The best month to grow vegetables really depends on the type of vegetables and some other factors.

In this article, we’ll take a look at a typical gardening year and give you a better idea of when to sow a range of common annual crops throughout the seasons.

When To Sow Spring Crops

When exactly you should sow spring crops will depend on exactly where you live – not just on your climate zone but also on your area’s microclimate. Soil type is also a factor to consider when growing outdoors – since some soils are slower to warm than others.

In the article, I use USDA Plant Hardiness Zones. It specifies the geographic areas based on average annual extreme minimum temperatures. To check the zone of the area where you live, have a look at the image below.

Zones 5-6

In zone 5 (and to a certain extent in zone 6), the main challenge is a relatively short growing season. But even in a colder climate zone, you can still grow food year-round if you use cloches (protective covers).

We recommend that you start sowing your spring/summer crops in your raised bed after the last frost date. (In zone 5, this is typically around May 15th, but it is a good idea to check for your specific area.)

If you use a cloche or other form of protection, you could sow a little earlier than this, perhaps in April. If you want to get a jump start on the season, you can also sow seeds indoors around a month or so before the last frost date.

Crops like onions, carrots, parsnips, beets, radishes, peas, fava beans, lettuce, spinach, chard, and brassicas (members of the cabbage family) can all be direct sown soon after the last frost date in your area. (Or earlier with protection.)

Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, green beans, and other warm-season plants should ideally be sown undercover. This can help you overcome the constraints of a short season. If direct sowing these crops, hold off until the soil has warmed and spring is well underway.

Zones 7-8

In zones 7 and 8, cold and a short season is not the problem. Instead, your main challenge is likely to be high temperatures in the summer. Still, as long as you mulch well to retain moisture, get your watering right, and shade cooler season plants during heat waves, you can definitely grow a wide range of crops.

In zone 7, start sowing crops like onions, carrots, parsnips, beets, radishes, peas, fava beans, lettuce, spinach, chard, and brassicas in around February. (2-3 weeks earlier for zone 8). Plant corn in March.

Sow the rest of your summer crops: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, green beans, and other warm-season plants in April.

Zones 9-10

In the warm climates of zones 9 and 10, high heat levels in summer can be a major challenge. However, gardeners in these climate zones also have a massive advantage, as they can grow food year-round outdoors even without any form of protection. Warmer climate crops can be grown over the summer months, and the second lot of cooler climate crops can be sown in fall and enjoyed all winter long.

You can get started with sowing the cooler climate crops in your garden as early as January or February. You can sow all the warmer climate crops from March or early April.

No matter where you live, in addition to sowing vegetables, you should also definitely consider sowing companion plants and creating diverse polycultures of plants that can aid one another in a range of different ways.

As you sow and plant in spring, it is also a good idea to plan the rest of your gardening year. And consider how you will rotate crops in the years to come. A good crop rotation plan can help to keep your garden growing strong.

Vegetables to Sow in Summer

As spring turns to summer, you may already be seeing yields from some of the quick-growing crops that you planted in spring, such as lettuce and radishes, for example, which can be ready to harvest in a month- six weeks.

Up until mid-summer, you should be successional sowing these crops, along with others such as peas, and root crops, to extend the harvesting period. In summer, you will begin to reap the rewards of your gardening efforts. But you should also be planning ahead.

After mid-summer, you can sow brassicas and other leafy crops (chard, mizuna, mibuna, pak choi, tatsoi) that can feed you in fall and overwinter (with protection in cooler climate zones) in your garden.

Some will feed continue to feed you over winter, while others (such as spring-flowering broccoli) will provide a crop in the spring.

Hardiness zones and average annual extreme minimum temperature

Crops To Sow in Fall

As summer turns to fall, in warmer climate zones with longer seasons, you can continue to sow green leafy crops and root vegetables that will overwinter in your garden. After you harvest summer, warm-season crops, you can fill in the gaps that emerge. And continue to plan for year-round growing and eating from your garden.

After the summer harvests, remove the summer crops (but leave legume roots in the soil). Consider sowing brassicas, winter lettuces, etc. into the space vacated. (Note: especially in zones 9-10, many brassicas may well be biennials or short-lived perennials and may survive in your garden over the winter months.)

In fall, you may also be able to sow fava beans, winter peas, onions, garlic, and root crops for overwintering.

But in colder climate zones, especially where winter protection cannot be provided, it may be better to plant a cover crop. Cover crops are often used for winter – especially where it would be more challenging to keep crop plants alive due to more extreme winter cold. 

A cover crop will protect the soil, add fertility, or improve soil structure when it dies back naturally or is chopped and dropped in spring. Mustard, winter rye, clover or vetch, and field or fava beans are all options to consider. Cover crops do not require any care. They simply remain in place or die back over the winter months.

Growing Vegetables in Winter

Winter is not generally the time to sow vegetables. But if you adopt the right approach and, as mentioned above, provide protection in colder climate zones, you can continue to harvest them from your garden all year round.

You can add cloches or row covers and thick mulches of organic material to protect your plants from frost. Or you can consider growing in a greenhouse or high tunnel, or even indoors.

As mentioned above, if you start seeds indoors, you can do so long before the last frost date in your area. Then you can harden off and transplant seedlings into your garden come spring.

As your garden slumbers over the winter months in cooler climes, take the opportunity to look forward and plan the year ahead. Remember, growing annual fruits and vegetables is not the only way to grow food in your garden. You could also set up a perennial growing system. A fruit tree, or even a food forest, can be planted over the winter months. You can choose and plant a wide range of bare root trees, fruit bushes, and fruiting canes in your garden.

However, and whatever you grow, maintaining fertility is key. As you will be using your growing areas all year round, you need to remember that you need to keep up fertility and replenish nutrients over time.

Use organic mulches, organic liquid fertilizers, and move around nitrogen-fixing legumes (e.g., peas and beans) to replenish this vital nutrient. Top dress the beds with homemade compost or other organic matter at the switch over between summer and fall, and again in spring.

Plan ahead and think long term, implement organic gardening practices, a no-dig approach, companion planting, and crop rotation. If you do, you can continue to sow, grow, and eat from your garden for years to come.

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