Answer: The best way to begin calculating your spring planting is to find out when your average last spring frost date occurs. Your County Extension can help with this (566-0673) and may also be able to suggest the best varieties of fruits and vegetables for your area. The average is only a guide, but it is better than nothing. Over time you will discover if your garden's microclimate usually runs early or late or about the same.
Things like broccoli and cabbage can be started about 12 weeks before the frost date and planted out about 5 weeks before it. Cauliflower and onions, 10 weeks and 4 before. Lettuce and chard can be started about 7 weeks and planted out about 3 weeks before the frost date. Tomatoes can be started about 6 weeks ahead and planted out right after the frost date. Eggplants and peppers can be started 7 weeks before and planted out 2 weeks after the frost date. Squash, cucumbers and melons need warm soil so are usually set out or planted from seed about two weeks after the last frost.
Plants for direct sowing such as peas and spinach can be planted about 5 weeks ahead of the last frost, beets, radish, carrots, and chard about three weeks ahead, beans and corn at about the last frost date, and the cucurbits about a week or two later.
All of these dates are a rule of thumb; some years the soil will be cold later into the season than others, some springs will be gentler than others.
It is best to work on your soil at least a week or two ahead of planting so that it can settle a bit before you plant into it. Ideally, you will prepare your soil on an ongoing basis, working in copious amounts of organic matter and adding whatever else is needed as indicated by the results of basic soil tests. Your County Extension should be able to help you with the tests and interpreting the results as well.
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