GROW VEGETABLES ALL YEAR FOR AN ABUNDANT HARVEST
The great thing about growing a vegetable garden in Zone 6 is we can grow food 365 days a year! When you start planning your garden, whether its on the flat, in a raised bed or in containers, you need to think about the three seasons we have here to grow.
Spring - cool season
Summer - warm season
Fall/Winter - cold season
One of the hardest things I had to learn was when to do what in the garden. Below, I have put together a great guide to help schedule the tasks of seed starting, transplanting into the garden and when to actually direct sow seeds in the garden based on the seasons, last/first frost dates and the success of growing your plants.
Don't rush the garden! The farmer's almanac says our last frost date is April 30th. THEY LIE! I have been gardening here in NE Tennessee for years and have come to realize that we always get a late freeze, after April 30th. I have lost way too many tomato plants and peppers following this date. Plan for the last freeze to pass after Mother's Day! For that reason, I plan to plant all my tender plants after May 15th but before June 1st. We can all wait 2 weeks to save our plants and a bit of dollars.
On that note, many vegetables can be planted in spring and again in fall. The chart below does not share all the details - there just wasn't room. You can successfully grow broccoli, cauliflower and kale in the spring. Just follow the schedule for cabbage. Brussels Sprouts and garlic need to wait for fall. Both plants do much better growing into cool weather rather that into hot weather. Get your brassicaceae (cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower) in early and harvest early...they will go to flower (bolt) as the cool spring weather warms up in May quickly. The same holds true for your lettuce and spinach.
Some vegetables can stay in the garden from one season to another to allow you to harvest over a long period, celery and parsley are bi-annuals which grow during the first year then flower and go to seed the second year. Both are very hardy in cold weather and keep growing. This will allow you to keep harvesting them into January. Carrots over winter well too. Just cover with leaves or mulch and you will be able to harvest them into February and early spring. Look for longer days of maturity when you select your winter carrots. There are those varieties that take up to 260 days to mature. These can be sown in late summer, grow all fall and winter, then can be harvested in early spring.
For details of what to do each month, check out THE VEGETABLE GARDENER'S CALENDAR here on our website. This will give you details of what to start indoors, what to sow outdoors, what chores need to be tackled and what to plan to harvest each month. Its a great guide to help you plan!