What to keep in mind before you dig into your garden this year

The recent run of warm weather in rural America may have you itching to get in the garden. Here is some advice before you dig in.

While you may be chomping at the bit to get seeds in the ground, Mother Nature is probably not quite ready.

“I’d say we still have two to three weeks, it really depends where you’re at,” Nancy Kreith with University of Illinois Extension states.

She offers some advice on where to look before you start planting: “What you want to do is look for your local frost-free date, and so you can look at the National Weather Service or your local weather service to determine when they’re predicting the last frost.”

She says that you can plant cool-season items like lettuce and other root crops, four to six weeks before the frost-free date, but early-season garden crops can be put in the ground as soon as you work the soil.

According to Kreith, “The hardiest of all crops are going to be your broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, leek, onion, pea, rutabaga, spinach, and turnip.”

Those are really tough plants that can tolerate frost. The category Kreith calls “half-hardy” can be planted two to three weeks before the frost-free date.

“A lot of your root crops-- beets, carrots, potato, and then you can get into cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, parsnips, Swiss chard, and also another root crop would be radish.”

Those items can also be planted more than once a year.


Preparing your seeds for your spring garden

How to be productive in the garden during cold weather