Planting and harvesting your own vegetable garden is an enjoyable and productive hobby, along with being very rewarding should you tend to your crop carefully enough. Understanding the ins and outs of planting your own vegetables can be confusing, but once you’ve experimented with a bit of trial and error, you’ll soon reap the rewards. Being attentive to your growing vegetables can make all the difference.
The majority of vegetables need to be planted in warm weather, with some vegetables slightly more resistant to the chill of the winter season. It can take up to a few months for vegetables to grow at home, and each vegetable has its own rules for the best harvest times.
In the rest of this article, I will take you through the steps of planting your own vegetable patch, what temperatures are ideal, the seasons that will produce the best results, and harvesting tips and tricks.
What Temperatures Are Best for Starting a Vegetable Garden?
The majority of vegetable seeds and seedlings thrive and grow healthily at specific temperatures. The ideal soil temperatures can vary between different vegetables, but there are some things you will need to bear in mind before you start thinking about planting your vegetables.
Most vegetable seeds can grow at an optimal temperature of between 65-75°F (18-24°C). Although there is some variation between different types of vegetables, soil temperature is the first thing to consider when starting a vegetable garden.
Soil temperature is essential to the health of your vegetables, so before even considering planting, you must first understand how the soil temperature can be measured. It can be measured in two different ways, either with a temperature gauge or by hand.
Understanding Soil Temperature
Soil temperature, in simple terms, helps your seeds germinate and grow effectively. Your vegetables will receive the vitamins and minerals they need to have optimal growth rates through the soil.
Soil temperature can be measured using a soil temperature gauge. There are several tools to purchase that are relatively inexpensive, such as the REOTEMP K82-3 Soil Thermometer from Amazon.com. It’s easy-to-use, corrosion-resistant, and waterproof and you can use it for different purposes, including gardening, seeding, and transplanting.
Using a soil temperature gauge is simple enough to use and merely requires you to put it in the soil at a minimum of 1 inch (2.54 cm) deep for seed sowing and 4 inches (10.16 cm) for transplants. You should leave it in there for a couple of minutes until you see the temperature. Do this for 3 days and take an average of your readings.
This short video on YouTube will show you how to use a temperature gauge properly.
Minimum Soil Temperatures
Minimum soil temperatures are the lowest temperatures your seeds or seedlings can survive at. Ensuring you plant your vegetables at these times will give you around 70% germination, which is realistic and practical for a novice gardener.
If you plant your vegetables without considering the soil temperature, the likelihood is that they will either refuse to grow, or they will not grow to their full potential—leaving you with some very sad vegetables.
The table below, is a rough estimation of the different temperatures needed to grow certain vegetables:
|Vegetable||Best Temp For Planting||Best Temp For Germination|
You don’t need to be exact, but as long as you aren’t going in extremes, then you should be alright.
The black spots are the ideal soil temperature for planting each vegetable. The green spots are the most practical soil temperature for novice gardeners with 70% germination success and are helpful in growing those vegetables that take longer to harvest.
In this instance, the vegetables which need lower soil temperatures to survive are slightly more resistant and can be harvested in the cooler months since they can survive light frosts.
If you can’t resist planting your vegetables and don’t want to wait for the warmer weather to kick in, you can always grow your vegetables using a cover to protect them from cold temperatures. These covers can include PVC coverings or even cut-out jugs of milk.
If you’d like to build your own greenhouse, or a raised-bed cloche, see this article for more details from Oregon State University. Building a greenhouse will give you greater scope for growing vegetables around the season, rather than just within the frame of the season, since you can better control the temperature better.
What Month Do You Start a Vegetable Garden?
As previously mentioned, all vegetables have slightly different needs, including germination time, ideal soil temperatures, and harvesting time. But what month do you begin the process?
It’s advised to start your hardy vegetables in the early spring, 1-2 weeks before the final frost. This way, you can harvest them early. For the majority of other vegetables that need warm weather to survive, such as tomatoes, the best time to sow the seeds is early spring or March to May.
Some vegetables, especially the more sensitive ones such as tomatoes, may need to begin their journey of germination inside. In this case, you can start the process anytime you like since they’re protected indoors.
After you reach the ideal temperature, you can transfer them outside and transplant them in the garden. Just ensure that you give your little seedlings enough time to adjust to outdoor temperatures once you move them, and always remember to measure the soil temperature before doing so.
Starting a Vegetable Garden With Hardy Vegetables
Hardy vegetables are those that can withstand a bit of frost and some of the more persistent winds. These include peas, radishes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, leeks, and onions.
Potatoes, parsnips, celery, carrots, and beets are also among those vegetables which are hardy up to a point but cannot withstand such harsh weather like snow or heavy rains.
When beginning a vegetable garden with hardy vegetables, measure your soil temperature first to ensure an optimal environment for your budding greens, and aim to plant by early March for best results. For these enduring plants, you can even start as early as 12 weeks before the last expected frost.
If you sow these vegetables early in the spring, just as the warmth is kicking in, continue planting every fortnight to have a continuous harvest leading up to the winter months.
Starting a Vegetable Garden With Tender Vegetables
Tender vegetables are those with slightly more sensitive dispositions and may need a bit more care and warmth from the sun than their hardy counterparts.
Tender vegetables include tomatoes, sweetcorn, okra, peppers, watermelon, lima beans, eggplant, and cucumber, among others.
It’s better to begin planting these vegetables when the soil is completely dry to avoid killing the seeds. They need to be protected from temperatures below 50°F (10°C), so cover them with a blanket if you’re in a rush.
How Long Does It Take for Garden Vegetables To Grow?
Vegetables are a bit like people – they’re all different and prefer different things, so growth time can vary considerably.
As a general rule of thumb, it takes 70-120 days for garden vegetables to grow. The majority of vegetables don’t take any longer than that. Patience is key when growing your own vegetables, so pulling them up before their ideal growth time is detrimental to both taste and texture.
You should give ample time to begin seeing any growth, but usually, it takes about 2 weeks to see a sprout from any vegetable you have planted. See the table below from Your Homestead Journey for more accurate sprouting times for various vegetables:
Here are some of the ideal growing and typical sprouting times for common vegetables:
|Vegetable||Ideal Growing Time||Sprouting Time|
|Spring Radishes||40 Days||3-8 Days|
|Squash||60 Days||8-12 Days|
|Spinach||60 Days||10-18 Days|
|Lettuce||60 Days||7-10 Days|
|Cucumbers||62 Days||6-10 Days|
|Broccoli||62 Days||5-9 Days|
|Okra||62 Days||8-13 Days|
|Beans||65 Days||7-13 Days|
|Turnips||65 Days||6-9 Days|
|Beets||65 Days||8-14 Days|
|Carrots||80 Days||10-21 Days|
|Tomatoes||85 Days||6-14 Days|
|Corn||105 Days||6-10 Days|
|Onions||120 Days||10-14 Days|
|Potatoes||120 Days||14-28 Days|
|Sweet Potatoes||125 Days||28-35 Days|
Seeing a visible sprout pop up from the soil shows that you’re doing things right.
Note that the climate you live in is essential when it comes to planting your vegetables. If the growing season is relatively short in your state, then you may need to use a greenhouse or equivalent to grow more sensitive vegetables.
Below is a hardiness map of the United States, with average annual temperatures included:
How Do You Know When a Vegetable Is Ready To Harvest?
As mentioned, all vegetables are different, have varying growing needs, and look different when they should be harvested. Bearing the differences in mind will help you when it comes to finally taking them out of the ground.
In general, you know when a vegetable is ready to harvest when they reach a specific size. You don’t need to grow giant vegetables – many are ready before they reach full size. That’s because optimal taste and texture often sits between half-growth and complete growth.
If you want to know whether your vegetable is ready for harvesting, you can always take a bite. If the taste is correct, then it’s probably ready. Only experience will lead you to this point, but trial and error always helps.
Tips for Harvesting Vegetables
For vegetables that bear fruits, like tomatoes and peppers, you can tell whether they’re ready to be harvested by their skin color. It’s the simplest way to tell for fruiting vegetables since it’s always clear that a fully ripe tomato is entirely red, for instance.
For potatoes, you should look at the size. When they’re the size of a chicken’s egg, you can take them from the ground.
Remember that if you harvest vegetables too early, it will often take away flavor. Overripe vegetables may lose all the vitamins for which they’re famous. Try to harvest just before their complete maturity stage for the best results.
Is It Better To Pick Garden Vegetables in the Morning or Evening?
It might seem a bit particular, and many novice gardeners don’t know this, but there’s actually an optimal time of day to pick garden vegetables.
The best time of day to pick garden vegetables is early in the morning after they have regained their moisture from the night before. This preserves vitamins and produces better, tastier results.
Vegetables growing in a garden lose moisture in the heat of the sun during the day, and the dampness of the night is the perfect opportunity for them to regain all that lost moisture. This leaves your vegetables ripe for the picking and will be much crispier and more succulent.
Carpe-ing the diem when choosing a time to harvest your vegetables is essential to those vitamins that vegetables are famous for. Maintaining the moisture gained overnight is one way to ensure that the vitamins are intact.
Bear in mind that keeping freshly-harvested vegetables in the fridge or freezer isn’t a good idea. Fresh out of the ground, they’ll likely lose their moisture and texture if put in a cold place, and their taste and texture may even change.
Still, if you’re not particular about the taste of your vegetables, then there are no hard and fast rules you need to abide by. Just make sure you harvest them properly to ensure you can continue growing next season.
Pulling Vegetables out Properly
Although it may seem like it doesn’t matter much, the way you pull out those vegetables matters. Some of them can have delicate personalities that will be mortally offended should you pull them out too roughly and consequently may refuse to grow next season.
If the ground is very wet, it’s much better to wait for a drier day. If a vegetable is pulled out when it’s too wet, the plant is more likely to get poisoned by listeria monocytogenes. This will prevent the vegetable from continuing to grow next season, and may even infect the soil itself.
The lesson here is: be gentle with your vegetables, give them all the sun, water, and love that they need, and your vegetable garden will be off to an excellent start.
Although it may seem as though growing vegetables in your garden is complicated, it’s incredibly rewarding. Having home-grown veggies to cook is very gratifying, and having a lovely vegetable patch also looks good in the garden.
For more, don’t miss Which Fertilizer Makes Plants Grow Faster? | Optimum Growth Guide.
Hi, I’m Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page.
I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.