Help Vegetable Garden Thrive by Knowing Right Time to Plant

— Written By and last updated by Diane Lynch
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Q: When can I plant vegetables in my garden?

A: Having a home vegetable garden can be an exciting and rewarding activity. It is rewarding to see all your hard work in the garden pay off by enjoying fresh, home grown vegetables.

A common question about vegetable gardening is when to plant which vegetables.

There are two groups of vegetables: warm and cool season. Cool season vegetables will perform better during the cooler months of spring and fall. These vegetables can tolerate colder temperatures and some light frosts. Examples of cool season vegetables would include broccoli, cabbage, carrots, collards, lettuce, onions, garden peas, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, and turnips. The great thing about most cool season vegetables is that you can plant them for a spring and/or fall garden. For a spring garden, plant cool season vegetables from February to March. A fall garden would be planted in late August to September.

Warm season vegetables perform best in warm weather and can not tolerate frost or freeze. Examples of warm season vegetables includes: beans, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peppers, squash, tomatoes, watermelons, and zucchini. Warm season vegetables are best planted in late April into May after the chance of frost has passed.
Some vegetables do better when seeded directly into the garden while others do better when they are transplanted as small plants into the garden. Warm season vegetables that perform best when direct seeded into a garden include beans, corn, southern peas, and okra. Warm season vegetables that perform better when transplants are set in the garden include eggplant, pepper, and tomatoes. There are some vegetables that can be either direct seeded or transplanted such as cucumbers, squash, watermelons, and zucchini. You can either buy transplants or start them yourself from seed indoors. To start seed indoors would require sowing warm season vegetable seeds in March to allow enough time to grow before transplanting outdoors.

When moving transplants outdoors, you want to be sure to harden-off transplants before planting outside. Hardening off transplants refers to gradually exposing transplants to outdoor temperatures. If you plant transplants immediately outside they will often suffer from transplant shock because they were not given time to adjust to outdoor conditions. Outdoor temperatures are usually cooler and fluctuate more than indoor temperatures. The amount and intensity of sunlight can also be different indoors and outdoors. To harden-off transplants before planting outside, gradually expose transplants to outdoor conditions over a two week period. Put the transplants outside during the day and bring in at night for the first week. In the second week, put transplants outside for longer periods of time. This will allow the transplants to gradually adjust to outdoor conditions such as temperature, light and wind.

Are you interested in learning more about growing vegetable in your home garden? Wayne County Cooperative Extension will be holding a Home Vegetable Gardening Workshop on Friday, March 20th from 9 a.m. to noon at the Wayne Center (208 W. Chestnut Street, Goldsboro). A presentation will be provided along with handouts on caring for fruit trees. Information covered will include how to plant and start a vegetable garden along with how to care for it through out the season. The workshop is free and open to the public. Registration is required by calling Wayne County Cooperative Extension Office at 919-731-1520.

Learn More!
• Visit our website at Click on “Lawn & Garden” on left side of webpage.
• “Like” us on Facebook to receive timely garden tips, ask questions, and learn of upcoming gardening events.

Upcoming Wayne County Extension Gardening Programs:
Wayne County Gardening – Spring Workshop Series. The Wayne County Extension Office will be offering workshops featuring popular gardening topics. Workshops consist of a presentation, question and answer session, and handouts to take home. All workshops are free and open to the public. Registration is required for all workshops by calling the Wayne Co. Extension Office at 919-731-1520.

  • Home Orchard Care Workshop – Friday, March 13th, 9 a.m. to noon at Wayne County Extension Office, 208 W. Chestnut Street, Goldsboro. In this workshop, learn how to start and care for fruit and nut trees in your back yard. We will cover site & variety selection, pruning, fertilization and pest management for pecans, figs, apples/pears and peaches.
  • Home Vegetable Gardening Workshop – Friday, March 20th, 9 a.m. to noon at Wayne County Extension Office, 208 W. Chestnut Street, Goldsboro. Nothing is more rewarding than to raise and harvest fresh vegetables from your own backyard garden. This workshop will cover how to plant and start a vegetable garden along with how to care for it through out the season. No matter the size of your vegetable garden, this workshop is for you!
  • Save the date for the annual Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Spring Plant Sale! This year’s plant sale will be Saturday, April 18th at the Wayne Center of the Wayne County Cooperative Extension Office (208 W. Chestnut Street, Goldsboro). Doors will open at 9 a.m. and stay open until noon.

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Jessica Strickland
Extension Agent
North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Wayne County Center
P. O. Box 68
Goldsboro, NC 27533
Phone: 919-731-1520
Fax: 919-731-1511