Spring is approaching fast, and the only way to achieve a beautiful yard and bountiful garden harvest is to form a plan.
I put together this spring planting guide to assist you with preparing for your spring garden and streamline the process into manageable steps.
Inside this guide, I detail why planning is essential, how to calculate when it’s time to plant, and much more.
Don’t wait until the spring thaw to think about your garden. Instead, use this spring planting guide today!
Planning A Spring Garden
Whether they are flower beds or vegetable crops, the best gardens start with a comprehensive plan.
Gardens consist of more than just plants you purchase from a nursery or grow from seeds. You must also consider:
- Soil condition and texture
- Nutrient and fertilizer needs
- Weed and fungal control measures
- Garden design using edging, raised beds, containers, or berms
- Weather conditions and USDA growing zones
To get the most for your time and effort during spring planting, you must be ready for all of the above.
Plan Before You Plant
Why is planning your spring planting so critical?
Because as soon as it’s safe to plant, you’ll be ready for action, and it will result in flowers blooming and crops maturing faster.
By figuring out now what you need for your spring planting, you can pull out your calendar and plug in dates to begin various tasks.
Making a list of which plants you desire, along with which ones you want to start indoors, will help you create a planting schedule.
Walk around your garden and take notes of what amendments you need to add to the soil to increase organic content or nutrients or fix pH levels. You can purchase these over the next weeks or months, so they’re ready to till into the soil immediately after it thaws.
Winter downtime is also a great time to consider revamping your planters or gardens by adding in edging, building and filling raised beds.
Spacing out garden purchases, chores, and plantings on your calendar will help you avoid getting overwhelmed trying to do it all once when the weather warms.
Spring Garden Planting Schedules
Many different gardening websites and agricultural cooperatives offer planting guides, planting schedules, or planting calendars for users to reference if they’re unsure when it’s safe to put plants in the ground.
A spring garden planting schedule is typically set up by state or regional “zones,” with each zone having dates that are best to plant specific types of vegetables, herbs, or flowers.
For example, Texas A&M Extension posts five state gardening zones, with the recommendation to plant asparagus after January 15 for zone 4 but to wait until March 1 if you’re in zone 1.
The suggestions in most spring garden planting calendars are an average date range set by using the last frost dates in recent history. The accuracy of such planting schedules is pretty good, but of course, an unusually late frost can happen without warning, so you must always be ready.
If you plan to start seeds in a greenhouse or your home before the last frost, you can gain several weeks of growing time for faster-maturing plants once you set them out in your garden.
Finding Your Planting Zone
Locating your exact planting zone is easier than ever. Many major plant companies, USDA websites, or gardening almanacs offer maps that break down your state or region into zones.
There are two benefits to knowing your planting zone. The first is knowing which plants can survive the climate, so you aren’t wasting money on those that will die during winter and need replacement come spring.
The second benefit of having planting zone information is the charts detailing when it’s best to start seeds indoors or direct-seed specific vegetables, herbs, or flowers into your garden beds.
Most planting schedules work by typing in your zip code, which will display your zone.
When you scroll down, you’ll find a list of all the most common plants that are hardy to that zone. The chart will note when you should either start them from seed indoors or plant them directly in the ground outdoors.
Planting guides take much of the timing guesswork out of spring garden preparation, so you know what work needs to happen each week once the ground thaws.
The schedules are also very helpful in plotting out your garden sections. For example, you can plan to grow an early broccoli crop and then plant corn once you harvest to make the most of the growing season and space available.
Risk Of Spring Frost
The excitement of planting your spring garden can quickly dissipate if your region gets an unexpected late frost that damages or kills tender young seedlings.
This fear keeps many gardeners from planting on the first date a planting schedule suggests. However, if you’re ready for a frost, you can overcome this obstacle and enjoy larger and heartier plants sooner than those that wait an extra week or two.
The best solution to combat a late frost after you put plants in the ground is to have a supply of stakes or garden hoops and plant freeze-protection material ready for action.
As soon as you hear about frost warnings in your area, you can quickly cover and protect your freshly planted garden to stop the damage from freezing weather.
Plant covers are lightweight and easy to spread over an entire garden bed.
Push stakes into the ground around the perimeter of the plants, leaving them sticking up about six inches above the plant tops. Drape the plant cover over the stakes and pull the material taut as you secure the outer edges to the ground using cement blocks or BzBirds landscaping staples.
Sealing the plants from bitter winds and cold will keep them safe from frost damage. In addition, trapping the heat rising from the earth will keep foliage and developing root systems warm until the frost passes.
Many plant protection fabrics allow sunlight to penetrate, which is an excellent choice that allows you to leave your coverings in place for several days if necessary.
When To Plant Seeds For Spring
If you don’t use a planting zone schedule, you can use another method to know when to plant seeds in your spring garden.
First, you need to pinpoint this year’s last frost date for your area. You can do an online search for this information or contact a local plant nursery or cooperative for the date.
Using The Count Back Method To Time Spring Planting
Plant packets have all the information you need to figure out when the best time is to plant flower or vegetable seeds in the garden or start them indoors.
The two key numbers to know are the length of time it takes for seeds to germinate and how long it takes them to grow to maturity.
For example, a beefsteak tomato plant needs 5-10 days to germinate and around 85 days to reach maturity.
If you want your tomatoes ready for harvest on July 1, you should count backward 90-95 days and either plant seeds directly in the ground around April 1 or start them indoors if it’s still too cold and move them to the garden when the weather permits.
Overall, any time you can start seeds indoors instead of directly planting them in the ground, it will result in a more productive garden.
Seedlings that falter in your garden waste space and the time it takes to replant and germinate a new seed. If you plant seed trays indoors, you can remove the weaker plants before transplanting them into your garden.
Please note that there’s an optimal time to transplant seedlings to the garden. You don’t want their root systems to overgrow the small trays.
If you need to wait longer or want bigger plants ready for transplant, you’ll need to move seedlings to larger pots to keep them growing properly.
Preparing Your Spring Garden
Here is a good plan for preparing your spring garden for planting:
Look at what you have on your spring garden planning list and ask yourself what tools and supplies are necessary to achieve your goals?
Inventory what garden supplies you have on hand and which ones you need to purchase.
Common gardening tools include:
- Shovels and hand trowels
- Rakes and gardening fork
- Wheelbarrow or garden cart
- Hoses and sprinklers
- Pruning clippers
Common gardening soil amendments include:
- Compost or manure
- Topsoil or garden soil
- Potting soil
- Liquid and granular fertilizers
- Peat moss or leaf mold
- Herbicides and fungicides
- Common gardening planting supplies include:
- Planting trays or pots
- Watering can
- Plant covers and stakes
Common garden structural supplies include:
- Landscaping timbers or blocks
- Wood posts
Creating and staying within a gardening budget is much easier when you know exactly what you need to complete your spring planting projects.
You can complete many garden construction projects before the last frost date of spring, which will make all your future tasks more efficient, such as installing an irrigation system.
You can design and construct trellises if you know you’ll be planting pole beans or other climbing plants.
Raised beds are another ideal project that helps struggling gardens perform better and are easier on your back during planting and harvest time.
If you know you’ll need to hang shade cloth over your lettuce or tomato crops in the heat of summer, now is a great time to install permanent poles with hooks on the edges of that area, so you can quickly clip the material on and off later in the season.
Every little thing you do to construct well-functioning structures will increase the efficiency and enjoyment of your garden.
As soon as the ground thaws, you’ll want to pull out your list of soil amendments you need and start working them into your garden beds.
A fresh dose of compost and additional fertilizer will give new plants the best environment to grow strong.
Breaking up the dirt with a rototiller is fast and makes it simple to mix in amendments to the recommended 8-12 inches in depth. Tilling also oxygenates the soil, which helps beneficial microbes and seedling roots flourish.
Waiting until the weather warms to start thinking about your garden can leave you way behind in growing vegetables or having a yard full of gorgeous blooming flowers.
Use this spring planting guide to optimize your time, so you can plan for all your garden’s needs and be ready as soon as the weather breaks. An early start to spring planting will be worth the effort, so begin planning now to get the most out of the growing seasons ahead!