The planner below is intended to guide a sequence of gardening related activities that will support the success of vegetable growing and keep growers engaged all year. We suggest using ‘average frost date’ as a rough time line for scheduling activities. Now we know that frost dates from year to year can vary. The average last frost date in Northern New Mexico is said to be around Mother’s Day. In other locations this will, of course, vary. Also, one year’s last frost day can be the following year’s 80 degree weather. So be mindful of weather trends before transplanting outdoors. Another suggestion is to learn about the particular plants and crops that are planned, the kind of care they need, what they are susceptible to and when to generally harvest. This in itself can be an all-year intermittent activity.
Table of Contents
Last Average Frost Date
Activities | 20 Weeks Before
Soil test for vital minerals
Treat garden soil
Order seeds and inventory supplies for seed starting
Install a drip watering system, if water source is nearby
Sow seeds indoors in flats
Turn covered compost piles and keep moist
Activities | 14 Weeks Before
Sow more seeds indoors for transplanting later
Check on seedlings
Make sure there is plenty of light once seeds have propagated. If enough natural light is not available, use grow lights. Fluorescent lights can also be used if placed a maximum of 4″ from the plants. Keep the soil spongy moist. The plants don’t require a lot of water at this point. When seedlings start to grow about the height of the flat containers, I like to transplant to small pots to give roots room to grow. Again, use light potting soil.
Store leftover seeds
Activities | 9 Weeks Before
Direct sow seeds outdoors
Till under old crops if not done already
Treat soil if too compacted
Bear in mind complementary planting principles when garden planning.
Start transplanting indoor starts to larger containers
Activities | 6 Weeks Before
Continue sowing seeds outdoors as weather gets warmer
Start transplanting some indoor plants outdoors
Activities | 3 Weeks to 1 Week Before
Sow bush beans, and all other vegetable seeds if haven't done so already.
Make second sowing of crops for transplanting later in the season
This includes cabbage, broccoli, cilantro, dill
Sow seeds for leafy greens outdoors
Look out for garden pests
Hardening off plants
If planting potatoes, move the soil up against the plants to protect
Activities | Last Frost to 2 Weeks After
Continue to check for insects and pests
Check for green worm larvae
Set out plants for transplanting
Consider growing edible flowers among the vegetables
Check for aphids, flea beetles and slugs
Make second sowings of lettuce, carrots, beets, corn and radishes.
Stake pepper and eggplant
Protect plants from wind
Set out remaining transplants, if haven't already.
Great time to sow summer squash
Begin staking tomato plants that are starting to droop
More and more, I prefer using stakes over cages. They take up less room, are equally effective and more plants fit in less space. Pinch off suckers that develop to encourage more rapid growth.
If growing in a hoop house consider additional space by hanging baskets off the structure for tomatoes, vines and flowers
Activities | 3 - 5 Weeks After
Late season harvest preparation
Sow in flats, pots or garden: brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, escarole, endive
Replace early harvest crops
Sow summer squash, beans, carrots, fall cabbage, turnips, leaf lettuce
Replenish soil around harvested plants with compost
Home-made, mushroom, steer or alpaca is great if you can get it.
Keep monitoring for garden pests.
Depending on climate, begin harvesting.
This may apply to baby carrots, parsley, basil, lettuce (before it bolts), snow peas and asparagus (spears only).
Watch out for and try to identify the good guys, the predatory insects that eat the pests.
Among these are parasitic wasps, ground beetles, lacewings, lady bugs, dragon flies. Lizards are also great insect eaters.
Activities | 6 - 8 Weeks After
Make additional sowings of cilantro, beans, carrots, beets, turnips, chard and lettuce
Transplant brussels sprouts seedlings into the garden
Check for hornworms around tomato plants
They are best seen very early in the day.
Cut off old leaves of plants
Take shoot cutting of basil to start new plants
You will need to root first.
Continue to remove suckers from tomato plants
They can be found where the branches vee.
Crops that may be ready for harvest are zucchini, summer squash, shallots, peas, tarragon, basil, oregano, mint, broccoli, pickling cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, green beans and radishes. Herbs are preferably harvested early in the day.
Activities | 9 - 11 Weeks After
Sow more for late harvest planting
Spinach, kale, chard are good choices
As plants are harvested, throw into compost pile.
Composting is a whole other topic. Simply put, it can be a roughly constructed bin out of pallets that are lined with black poly film and covered. My own method is to layer with straw, scraps from greens, eggshells, coffee grinds and harvested plants and covered with a few inches of natural soil. Soils may be mulch from trees, sand and loam. Repeat the layering until bin is full. Keep moist and turn. Have an opening at the bottom and empty finer grains of material. You’ll find that worms come out of nowhere and multiply. They make nice fine castings out of the matter you put into the bin(s).
Harvest herb leaves for drying
Harvest garlic, okra, carrots, corn, summer squash, green beans, cucumbers as ready
If the weather is turning cool, remove new blossoms so the plants can focus on ripening existing fruit from green to orange.
Activities | 12 - 14 Weeks After (Early Fall)
Sow carrots in garden
They will overwinter.
Sow herbs indoors in containers
Place by south or west-facing windows.
Freeze or can extra produce
Harvest ripe vegetable as needed.
Winter rye and oats make good winter cover crops in their place. Turn over in spring for good composted material.
Leave overripe beans on plants
They can be harvested as dry beans and cooked.
Watch for garden pests
They are seeking to eat the fruits of your labor. Shop for low impact, non-toxic, organic soaps and herbicides to keep them in check.
Can, freeze or pickle tomato harvests
There should be several harvests of basil each season. They are ready for harvest once flower tops are formed. Some recipes call for fresh basil, either whole leaves or chopped. Most will be made into pesto. You should be getting the idea by now that gardening is closely tied to cooking and baking. This is an opportunity to expand culinary abilities and inspire experimentation.
Activities | 15 - 17 Weeks After
Sow radish seeds for late crop.
Pull up plants no longer bearing
Incorporate in compost pile
Replenish soil around harvested plants with compost
This will help set the garden up for good nourishing soil next spring.
Store onions, shallots and garlic
Keep skins on for preservation.
Save and store seeds of non-hybrid plants in cool dry locations.
Pul weeds before they go to seed.
Plant garlic cloves
Garlic is planted 1″ deep, 6″ apart, pointy side up. It takes roughly 9 months after planting before ready for harvest. As each bulb is divided into separate cloves, the bounty of garlic can grow exponentially just by saving a few cloves the following year’s harvest.
Activities | 18 - 21 Weeks After
Continue garden maintenance
Pull up dead plants
Plant seeds for carrots beets, chard, kale
Root vegetables, in particular, have a good chance of making it through the winter using frost cover, cold frames or a covered structure with some heating added.
Harvest remaining plants as needed.
Activities | 22 - 29 Weeks After
Sow seeds indoors in flats or small containers
This is in preparation for next spring’s planting. You might think about plants that take a while to develop before withstanding inconsistent spring weather, such as peppers and broccoli.
Clean tools thoroughly to prevent spread of disease
Use soap and water.
Cover beds with mulch such as dead leaves or straw.
These are better than wood chips which take a lot longer to break down. If leftover plants such as chard or kale are still in the garden, bunch mulch around the plants.
Along with personal experience vegetable gardening, Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook by Ron Kujawski & Jennifer Kujawski was leaned on heavily in developing this document. They go into much insightful detail about different aspects of gardening, as well. Other than that, there are other excellent guides on the market today. Failure is a key part of the learning process in gardening as in most areas of study. Try different techniques. Experiment! Vegetable gardening has many rewards. Aside from the obvious physical aspects, it is calming and invites introspection about life cycles and sciences. Have fun!