Use crop protection methods to get a jump start on your garden by sowing seeds of cool season crops and planting warm weather vegetables before the snow stops flying.
Learning when to plant in spring involves much more than knowing when to put plants in the ground. Many gardeners seed in spring instead of transplanting young plants. The use of cold frames and frost covers can greatly increase the temperature surrounding the plants allowing crops to be grown that normally could not be grown during that time of the year.
What to Plant in January
Snow is typically still on the ground in January, frost is in the air and it is downright cold in most parts of the country; however do not let the weather deter you. Gardeners in USDA zone 5 and higher can get a head start on planting seed in spring right now. Seeds to plant, under cover in January include carrots, peas and spinach.
Indoors start seeds of cabbage, celery, onions and parsley. By the end of January begin moving the young seedlings started indoors out into the cold frame on warm days so they can begin to harden off.
Keep Planting Come February
Spring is still several weeks off. This month there is not a lot to do in the cold frame other than water and care for sprouting seedlings. By the end of February however the work in the cold frame will increase. The onions, cabbage, celery and parsley that were started last month hopefully have been hardened off by the end of February. These plants should be planted in their permanent home inside the cold frame along with pre-sprouted potatoes.
March in the Garden
Seed in spring vegetables such as spinach, beets, endives, Swiss chard, carrots, lettuce, peas, radish, kohl rabi and green onions. These are best direct seeded into the garden under cover. Do not worry if these seeds do not sprout immediately. Keep them watered and when the time is right, they will begin to grow. Towards the end of the month, direct seed early corn and bush beans under cover.
Gardeners who started broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupe, eggplant, squash and watermelon indoors can plant hardened off plants outdoors under cover by the end of March.
While this may seem a little extreme given the fact that snow, frost and cold temperatures are still around, give it a try. Do not use up all the seeds or plant every plant that was started. Instead choose cold hardy varieties and begin by planting a couple of plants. In the event the plants do not thrive, there will be some left for back-up planting later in the season. Gardeners who are successful can use the additional plants and seed in spring when they can be grown outdoors without the use of cold frames or frost cover.