Planting a Vegetable Garden: A Monthly Guide
A garden, and the delicious bounty it provides, can be a rewarding and delicious hobby. By: Michelle Klug
Photo: Van Chaplin
Happy, Healthy Gardening
Fresh veggies, available right in your backyard, are great additions to any meal. Since you are able to control pesticides and growing conditions, gardening offers a healthy alternative to store-bought produce. Save money at the grocery store and get your daily dose of Vitamin D with a backyard garden.
Depending on which region of the country you live in, growing seasons can be very different. Tropical climates mean looking for more heat-tolerant plants that tolerate moist soil. Colder climates offer shorter seasons and you will want to look for more cool-weather plants. This guide will give you a general schedule on how you can plan and produce a vegetable garden, but make sure to check with your local garden centers for planting suggestions.
Photo: © I Love Images/Corbis
December - January
One thing is for sure: A frosty, frozen garden means an anxious gardener. Rest assured, there are a couple things you can be doing.
- Sit down with a gardening book and make a game plan for your spring garden. Look through garden catalogs and begin ordering seeds.
- Compost branches from your Christmas tree or layer them over your garden for insulation.
- Keep your backyard bird feeders full to ensure they make it through the winter to help you keep pests out of your garden.
- Make a trip to your local hardware store to replace any tools.
- If you live in a warm-weather region, take advantage of the cool weather and plant greens or anything in the cabbage family.
Photo: © Hybrid Images/cultura/Corbis
February - March
Spring is in the air, so gear up get your garden ready for growing.
- Prune dead leaves and branches off of plants and trees.
- Once you soil becomes unfrozen, start preparing it for spring by turning it and adding organic matter and fertilizer as needed. Earthworms will begin eating the organic matter and breaking up the soil.
- Consider getting a soil test to ensure you have the correct nutrient balance.
- If the frost has broken, you can begin planting cool weather plants such as leafy greens, root vegetables, broccoli, peas, onions, and cabbage-family vegetables. If it’s still too frosty, begin sowing these seeds inside in containers so they will be ready to plant in late March.
- If you are planning to start any warm-weather seedlings indoors, begin in late March.
Photo: © Tammy Hanratty/Corbis
April - May
When the weather is warm, but not scorching, it’s gardening prime time!
- If you were able to plant in February or March, harvest your first crops of cool-weather vegetables. Your greens, roots, broccoli, peas, and cabbage should be reaching maturity in these months, but keep harvesting until the weather becomes too hot.
- Now, start thinking about which veggies you want in your summer garden. Start warm weather seeds for peppers, corn, okra, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, beans, and eggplant.
- Nourish the garden with a slow release plant food.
Photo: Van Chaplin
June - July
If you haven’t already planted your summer crops, now is the time.
- Harvest any remaining cool weather growers.
- Maintain tomatoes, greens, squash, eggplant, cucumbers, corn, okra, and beans and harvest your first batch of delicious summer veggies.
- Extremely hot temperatures call for more water than usual. Water deeply by hand every other day or look into installing an irrigation system; it keeps the soil moist and wastes less water to evaporation. Make sure to water the soil and not the foliage of the plants to avoid disease and water in the morning instead of mid-day; less water will evaporate from the heat.
- Mulching can help hold moisture in and keep scorching temperatures from damaging plants.
Photo: © Hero/Corbis
August - September
It’s time to start planting a delicious fall vegetable garden.
- Think of kale, lettuce, onions, beets, radishes, turnips, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts to plant in a fall garden.
- Continue harvesting summer plants as they reach maturity.
- Spread a fresh layer of compost or slow-release plant food.
Photo: © Juice Images/Corbis
October - November
Fall is in full swing and it can be a pleasant time to spend outside gardening and doing lawn work.
- Mounds of crunchy brown leaves probably plague you by now. But wait, don’t drag them to the curb. They are a gardener’s best friend, providing bags of free fertilizer that can be stored and used throughout the year. Run a mulching mower over leaves (many lawn mowers now have this setting) so they are chopped into small pieces. Leave some on the lawn and bag some to use as fertilizer for the garden.
- Harvest your fall vegetables and start preparing your garden for the cold weather.
- It’s time to do damage control: Mulch gardens to keep dormant plants warm.
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