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Is it too Early to Start Planting Vegetables


January 19, 2022

It’s starting. Can you see it? Nurseries are beginning to bring in pansies and primroses – the harbingers of spring in the garden center. But we must be patient a little longer. Many vegetables will tolerate cold, but not too cold. Even though we want to start those little darlings, it’s important to watch the weather and wait.

Seed starts in soil pods

In this list here we’ll provide some guidelines for the very minimum soil temperatures for germination. This isn’t meant to imply that you’ll achieve 100% germination if the soil remains at this temperature, but it’s ok to start and get some plants growing if you see that the trend for temperature looks to maintain at these levels and begin to rise.

35°F: lettuce, onion, parsnip, spinach

40°F: beet, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, collards, Asian greens, Chinese cabbage, fava beans, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, arugula, radish, Swiss chard, turnip, pea, radish, rutabaga

50°F: asparagus, celery, celeriac, corn, tomato

60°F: bean, cucumber, eggplant, pepper, pumpkin, squash, watermelon

Backyard Expressions Portable 2-Tier Walk-in Greenhouse 56"x 56"x 77"

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So, there are some vegetables that are just fine starting this time of the year. Many seeds can even endure frost as long as the soil is close to 40 degrees. Check your Farmer’s Almanac for local final frost dates. Choosing plants that we harvest roots or leaves from like lettuce, spinach, carrots, and radishes, are a good choice to start from seed outside. Plants that we use for a premature flower such as artichokes, broccoli, and cauliflower are another fine choice. Finally, plants that provide us edible seeds like peas and broad beans, are happily planted in colder weather.

sprouting plant in tray pack

If you’d like to get a jump on the warmer season, now is the time to start seedlings inside. You can also use a small seed starting kit with a heated mat to get your seedlings going quickly. Most cold-weather seeds will germinate within a week or two with this setup. Almost any seeds that you plan to grow indoors should be planted by mid-March in order to be ready to transplant into the garden at the best time for a full harvest.

Hydrofarm Germination Station with Heat Mat, Tray, 72 Cell Pack and 2 in. Dome CK64050

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tray pack with popsicle stick labels on each row

Using a seedling set-up helps to give plants the warmth and light that they need to thrive. Summer plants like pumpkins, cucumbers, summer squash, peppers, and tomatoes will do best if started inside early. Make sure to encourage strong plants by pinching back some growth while they are inside. Most of these plants need to wait until the weather is consistently above 60 degrees outside to ensure survival.

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Another approach to cold weather veggies is to use some sort of insulation when planted in early spring. There are several choices to keep your vegetables from freezing.

Crop Cover Floating Cover, White, 6 ft. X 25 ft.

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Row cover is a good solution for the occasional cold night. It is a light fabric that drapes directly over the plants, insulating it from frost. There is no need to remove row cover during the day if it is still cold. UV light travels through row cover, as does water.

You will find lots of reference tools for planting dates, but most planting dates are merely suggestions. Make sure that you are watching the weather forecast before you plant. More questions? Just ask your local Wilco Garden Area Specialist. Happy Growing!

We would love to see what you’re doing with your garden growing, use #mywilcolife on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tag Wilco Stores.


ROBYN ROGERS, THE AUTHOR OF THIS BLOG IS LOCATED ON THE KITSAP PENINSULA IN WASHINGTON AND HER ADVICE IS CONSISTENT WITH THE CLIMATE THERE.
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