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Seed Starting, Sowing and Growing Vegetables All Year Long

Growing vegetables is a passion and necessity that goes back to the dawn of human civilization and, in some cultures, is still a matter of survival.  Garden vegetables can be grown throughout the year, even in the dead of winter.

Winter (January/February):
Begin planning your garden for succession harvesting by selecting vegetables to be planted in early spring, late spring, early summer, late summer, and fall.

  1. Determine the space, in full sun, that you have for planting and make a sketch of where you plan to plant vegetables during those intervals.
  2.  Keep a garden journal to record your sketches and garden plans.
  3. Conduct an inventory of seed packets that you already have.  Throw out seeds that are more than three years old.

Early Spring (as soon as the soil can be worked):

  1. Amend garden soil with compost (Leafgro, composted cow manure, organic garden soil, etc.).  Turn the soil.
  2. If gardening in pots, replace old potting soil with fresh potting soil.  Spread old potting soil on flower beds.
  3. Consider taking samples of garden soil to send off to a soil testing laboratory.
  4. Start seeds of chard, lettuce, broccoli, and leeks indoors under lights.
  5. In a cold frame, seedlings of lettuce, chard, and broccoli could go out.

Mid Spring (St. Patrick’s Day/mid-March):

  1. Outside: plant potatoes and sow snap peas, turnip and radish seeds, and leek seedlings.  In a cold frame, plant hardened-off seedlings of chard and lettuce.
  2. Start tomato seeds indoors under lights.

Mid Spring (April 1st):

  1. Do any of the above listed on St. Patrick’s Day if the weather was poor in mid/late March.
  2. Sow seeds of beets and carrots.
  3. Start basil, pepper seeds indoors under lights.
  4. Take away the cold frame.  It’s too hot now to use it.  Lettuce, chard, and broccoli can be planted out now without protection.

Late Spring (mid-May/Mother’s Day):

  1. Sow seeds of corn, cucumbers, and summer squash.  Time to plant out tomato seedlings.
  2. Plant flowers with vegetables to attract pollinators (alyssum, salvia, lantana, flowering vinca).
  3. Plant herbs: basil, dill, fennel, sage, oregano, thyme, and rosemary.

Late Spring (June 1st):

  1. Sow seeds of corn, cucumbers, beans, limas, and pumpkin.  Plant sweet potato sprigs, summer squash, winter squash, and eggplant seedlings.
  2. Watch out for squash vine borers at the base of summer squash plants, flea beetles on tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant, and Mexican bean beetles on bean plants.

Early Summer (June 21):

  1. Start seeds under lights for broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and collards for setting out as seedlings in late July/mid-August for an early fall garden.
  2. Continue sowing seeds of cucumbers, beans, beets, chard, corn, and seedlings for tomatoes.
  3. Harvest, harvest, harvest!

Mid-Summer (July):

  1. Plant out seedlings of kale, collards, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts for a fall/winter harvest.  Cover with row cover fabric.
  2. Last chance planting of limas, cucumbers, and potatoes.
  3. Harvest, harvest, harvest!
  4. Harvest potatoes in mid-July when foliage begins to brown and die back.

Late Summer (August 1):

  1. Last planting of beans, peas, and chard.
  2. Watch out for the start of powdery mildew on squash plants.  Spray with organic fungicides.  Watch out for whiteflies on broccoli, kale, collards, and cabbage–cover with floating row cover fabric.

Late Summer (September 1):

  1. Plant seeds of spinach, turnips, radishes, lettuce, and garlic cloves.
  2. Freeze or can harvested vegetables.  Give excess harvest to neighbors or family.
  3. Prepare your garden bed for the last vegetable planting.  Set up the cold frame and plant chard, lettuce, spinach, carrots, and turnips.

Fall Garden (October):

  1. Harvest last tomatoes.
  2. Rake away remains of tomato vines, squash vines, beans, etc.  Remove tomato cages and wash with soap/water.  Let dry and then put them away.  Put away stakes.
  3. Harvest turnips.
  4. Record gardening successes and failures in a garden journal.

Winter Garden (November and December):

  1. Rake leaves around leeks and plants covered by row cover fabric to protect from cold.
  2. Time to harvest broccoli and the largest leaves of collards and kale.  Also, harvest brussels sprouts when large enough.  Harvest the leeks for soup. Lastly, harvest vegetables that were grown in the cold frame.
  3. Fall vegetables–broccoli, collards, kale, leeks, Brussels sprouts, and carrots–may survive the winter and be available for continued harvest in January/February the following year.

Have a great gardening experience!

by Christopher Lewis, Behnke’s Horticulturist

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Thanks, Christopher! This is a great plan!
    Last year I attended your talk on vegetable garden planning, and have aleady put into use much of the information you gave then. But I couldn’t wait for Spring — I already have 3-inch tall Romaine and Simpson lettuces and scallions growing under shoplights in my basement. They’ll be ready to eat before it’s warm enough to transplant them outside.
    Will Behnke’s be offering rooted sweet potato sprigs this year? Last year I bought two different sweet potato varieties as seed potatoes — one of them put out only one 1/2 inch long root, and everything rotted before either produced any green sprouts.
    [Berwyn Heights]

  2. I learned that Behnkes won’t be selling sweet potato slips though they may have sweet potato’s available in late spring to make the tubers produce slips.

    I’ll tell you what I’ve done: I’ve ordered sweet potato slips from Johnny’s Seeds and Burpees from their seed catalogs. They don’t ship until mid-may when weather is warm enough to plant them as soon as slips arrive in the mail. Have your garden plot ready to dig them in with a trowel (and adding compost as you tuck them into soil).

    Leave space for sweet potato vines to grow – and google “Growing Sweet Potatoes” and you will get lots of tips for growing these wonderful plants. Sweet potatoes won’t be ready for harvesting until just BEFORE a frost although I don’t think it matters if you want to harvest them earlier. A frosted vine could cause tubers to get rot (you don’t want that). Hope that I answered your question. Thanks, Christopher

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