2023 Planting Guide
It’s March and you know what that means…spring is just around the corner! As a Master Gardener, you’re more than prepared to grow the garden of your dreams this year, but you’re interested in a 2023 planting calendar to take the guesswork out of seed sowing. Before we get to the planting guide, let’s review a few basics.
Identify your last spring frost date
First, identify your hardiness zone to familiarize yourself with your area’s average lost frost date. If you’re not sure what growing zone you’re in, reference the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.¹ Simply type your area’s zip code and the map will identify which hardiness zone you fall under, and the map legend on the right will reveal average low and high temperatures, as well as average dates for first and last frost.
The simplest way to calculate when to sow a particular seed is to identify an ideal date to plant those seedlings outside, taking into consideration the average last spring frost in your region. From that date, count backward the number of weeks recommended for that particular variety to be mature enough to transplant. The new date you come up with becomes your seed-sowing date.
Start cool-season crops first
Cool-season vegetables like lettuce and brassicas prefer to run their life cycle before the heat of summer. Frost-hardy leafy vegetables like lettuce, arugula, and kale will germinate in temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can start sowing and enjoying these healthy greens in early spring!
Start brassicas, peas, and other cool-season vegetables indoors in late winter, and transfer seedlings to a cold frame to harden them off. Transplant young starts outside a month before the last spring frost. Alternatively, direct sow most cool-season crops as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring.
Plan for warm-season crops later
Heat-loving annuals like tomatoes, peppers, beans, and squash will suffer in cold temperatures, so wait to start these seedlings until warmer weather is on the horizon. Squash prefers to be direct-sown, so wait until soil temperatures have warmed up to at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit before sowing seed in the ground.
Tomatoes and peppers are both vegetables that take some time to mature, so you may need to start certain varieties up to eight weeks before the last frost. Start slow-maturing varieties in two- or three-inch pots so that they have room to develop strong root systems before it comes time to transplant. Transplant nightshades and other tender annuals outside at least two weeks after the last spring frost.
Start some seeds indoors to extend your season
Almost any seed can be started indoors and transplanted outside, with the exception of some root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and beets. Starting seeds indoors gives you a jumpstart on the growing season and allows gardeners in colder climates to extend their harvest window. Take care not to start seeds too early, or the rootbound seedlings will be more prone to transplant shock and premature bolting.
Direct sow some seeds to minimize transplant shock
Some cool-season vegetables like brassicas and lettuces do well direct seeded, and many heat-lovers like squash and beans prefer to go directly in the soil. While direct-sowing seeds does remove the risk of transplant shock for your seedlings, it also removes some level of control as well. It’s more difficult to manage moisture and humidity levels, as well as temperatures, sunlight, and pest pressure outdoors.
Succession plant quick-maturing vegetables
By this point in your gardening career, you’re ready to get the maximum yield of your garden. Some vegetables, like radishes, carrots, and lettuce heads you give one harvest. To ensure a continuous harvest of quick-maturing vegetables all season long, consider buying early-, mid-, and late-season varieties of your favorite vegetables to stagger the harvest. Alternatively, sow a new planting of the same variety every two to three weeks, depending on the vegetable.
Sample planting calendar
This sample planting calendar is based on an average last frost date of May 1. For a planting calendar tailored to your growing zone, visit the Old Farmer’s Almanac and input your region’s zip code for a personalized planting calendar.²
The sample planting calendar below includes both spring and fall planting dates for the most common annual vegetables. The first column identifies the number of weeks that the plant takes to mature to healthy transplant size.