The Q&A Archives: First vegetable garden

Question: I live in northern Minnesota and I want to plant a vegetable garden this year. Should I start all my plans inside firts? Some say to start inside 8 weeks before you plan and some do not say, so how do I know. And How do I know when it is safe to plan then outside?
Thank you-

Answer: If you have room to grow seedlings indoors you can get a jump on the season by having your plants ready to go into the ground when the soil is warm. Or, if you have never gardened before, you might just want to purchase seedlings at your garden center. If you decide to start your own seeds, you count back from your average last frost date and start your seeds then. Your average last frost date is between May 23 and June 4. 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. You might want to look into some of the season extender methods such as using cold frames, floating row covers and so on as well as using black plastic and raised beds to try to warm the soil a bit faster in the spring. You might also be able to grow some fall vegetables using these methods. It is best to work on your soil a week or two ahead of planting so that it can settle a bit before you plant into it. Ideally, though, 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. Hope you have a terrific garden!

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