When to Plant Your Garden

Written by: Matthew Romans, Program & Education Specialist – Garden Project

When should you plant your vegetables?

The best time to plant your garden varies from vegetable to vegetable, but in general, garden veggies can be divided into two main categories; cool season and warm season plants. The following guide outlines these two categories, and as always, look at a plant’s seed packet for more specific information about how to grow a particular vegetable.

Cool Season Vegetables – Plant mid-March thru early November

Many cool season vegetables grow throughout the warm summer weather, but they can tolerate colder temperatures and many can be planted as soon as the ground isn’t frozen (mid-March to early April). Cool season vegetables can also be grown as it cools down in the fall from September to early November.

However, remember that many cool season plants still need to be covered on cold days and nights to insulate them from freezing temperatures. Here’s a list of cool season crops that tolerate colder temperatures:

o   Arugula

o   Beets

o   Broccoli

o   Brussel Sprouts

o   Bok/Pak Choy

o   Cabbage

o   Carrots

o   Cauliflower

o   Celery

o   Chard


o   Chinese Cabbage Collard

o   Endive

o   Garlic

o   Horseradish

o   Kale

o   Kohlrabi

o   Leek

o   Lettuce

o   Mustards



o   Onion

o   Parsnip

o   Pea

o   Potato

o   Radish

o   Rhubarb

o   Shallot

o   Spinach

o   Turnip

Warm Season Vegetables – Plant mid to late May

These are vegetables which would be severely damaged by cold weather. It is generally best to wait to plant them outside until all risk of frosty weather is past.  Keep in mind that the chance of frost comes back at the end of September in mid-Michigan, which will mean the years end for growing these plants outdoors.


o   Basil

o   Beans

o   Corn

o   Cucumber

o   Eggplant

o   Melon

o   Okra

o   Peppers (sweet & hot)

o   Summer Squash

o   Sweet Potato

o   Tomato

o   Watermelon

o   Winter Squash


To Transplant or Direct Seed?

Most any vegetable can be transplanted or directly seeded into the garden, and the reasons for choosing one method of planting over another are many.  For instance, some veggies don’t yield enough per plant to justify transplanting (e.g. peas), while others are too easily disrupted by the operation (parsnips). On the other hand, many gardeners benefit from starting their plants sooner (transplanting) so they might extend their harvest time for warm-season fruits like tomatoes & peppers.

Below is a chart which outlines general planting preferences of several common garden vegetables:


Often grown as transplants Rarely grown as transplant
Head Lettuce Amaranth
Tomatoes Beans
Peppers Beet
Eggplant Arugula
Basil Carrots
Broccoli Corn
Brussels Sprouts Cucumber
Cabbage Luffa
Pak/Bok Choy Peas
Cauliflower Garlic
Celery Parsnips
Kale Potato
Swiss Chard Radish
Collards Melons
Kohlrabi Salad Mixes
Leeks Sunflower
Onions Turnip
Okra Winter Squash
Sweet Potato (*slips) Summer Squash
Leaf/Salad Greens