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When to Start Planting Veggies

I know, it’s barely January…who in their right mind is thinking about their vegetable garden at this time of year? Well, us farmer types, for one. It doesn’t really matter the size of your farm, what you grow/raise, or how sophisticated your farm operation might be or not; most every farmer in America has their own veggie patch out back.

 Well, okay, maybe not everyone, but a lot of us do. And any good farmer/gardener will tell you, we start planning our gardens (as well as seasonal crops) well before the last frost date.

In fact, in some areas of the U.S., the last frost date is the end of this month. Tampa, Florida; Tucson, Arizona; Eureka, California; these are just a few of the locales in the U.S. with final frost dates in January. So, no, I’m not crazy for thinking about my veggie patch just a couple of weeks after the New Year. Although, here in Georgia, our last frost date isn’t until early to mid-March, depending on specific location. (Athens, for example, is the third week of March, whereas Savannah is the first week.)

If you’re new to gardening, hobby farming, or other farming operations, it’s important to know when to start planting, when to start seeds, and similar tasks. A lot of that depends on the specific crop you plan to grow. For example, cool weather crops like leafy greens and radishes, don’t last too long once the warmer days start rolling in. Here in Georgia, those type plants are best started in seed trays a few weeks before the last frost, then transplanted after the risk of frost has passed. Other crops need warmer night time temperatures.

So, how does a novice know when to start what crops and veggies? You start with knowing your hardiness zone, and looking up the first/last frost dates for your zone. The USDA has an interactive map to help you find your zone and relative information. Alternatively, you can find resources that list the last frost date for your specific area. The Old Farmer’s Almanac, for example, lists first and last frost dates for specific cities. Several seed companies also offer similar resources on their websites. When in doubt, ask your nearest farm neighbor about the best time to start planting for your area.