One Month Until Planting! Make Sure You Do This Before Then.

It’s that time of month where I tell you what you’re supposed to be doing to guarantee a successful vegetable garden this year.  There’s one month until planting time.  Here’s what you need to do …

You’ve started your seeds, prepped your beds and bought a super cute basket for gathering vegetables.  Basically you’re already a successful gardener who should consider contacting a publisher about writing a book.  I mean, what else is there to do?


When last we met I had you starting cold weather crops like kale and swiss chard.

This year’s kale ready to set out.

If you started them when I told you to they’re ready to set out now.  “Setting out” is gardening lingo for plant them.



I know. I lied to you about planting time being in a month. But to be fair, the majority of your planting will be done in one month. But there are a few things you can get in the ground now.

This of course depends on where you live but if you’re in zones 5/6/7 you’re safe to plant cold weather crops like kale, cabbage, onions, poppies, swiss chard, broccoli, kohlrabi and spinach among other things outside. In fact a lot of these things will do much better if you get them in the ground before it heats up. Just like pansies.

That’s the other great thing about starting your own plants from seed – you can put them out in the garden much earlier than if you got the seedlings from a store. Most stores don’t even have their vegetable garden centres up and running yet.

Hardening Off!

BUT before you put your plants in the ground you need to harden them off. Hardening off plants is acclimatizing them to the big, bad world they’re about to encounter. To take them from inside to immediately planting them outside would be like dropping the Queen off in the middle of an episode of Shameless.  In both cases it’ll either end in shock or death.

If you’re not sure how to harden your seedlings off, make sure you read this post on how to harden off plants before you go sticking them outside for good.  It’s not a difficult thing to do, it just gets them used to being outdoors with the much stronger sun, wind and rain.

Warm Weather Crops!

If you haven’t started them yet get those warm weather plant seeds into some pots stat.  Things like tomatoes, red peppers, zucchini and squash are considered warm weather crops.  In Zone 6 I’m able to start many of them in the ground in May, but a couple of them need to be started indoors or they won’t have enough time to grow up big and strong and produce fruit.

Tomatoes and peppers are the two things you need to start indoors.  Either that or buy them as seedlings in a few weeks.  If you wait and try to plant a pepper or tomato seed in the garden once the weather warms up there probably just won’t be enough time for it to grow for you before it gets cold again.

Gather Your Tools

I know you have that nice vegetable gathering basket but you’re going to need a few more things if you want to have a successful garden. Anyone can “garden”. Not everyone can successfully garden. Here are a few of the things I use regularly in the garden.

Floating Row cover – When you buy row cover it needs to be as wide as your gardening bed plus high enough to accommodate the height of the plants inside. You’ll use it to protect your plants from frost and from bugs.

Hula Hoe – THIS is my favourite gardening tool.  It’s for weeding and instead of pulling the weed up it cuts the stem at soil level. This kills annual weeds and slows down perennial weeds.  Continued use on perennial weeds will kill those as well.

Hand Pruners – I’ve had these of Felco pruners for years.  They’re strong enough to cut through big branches or corn stalks and still delicate enough to lop off flower stem if you want to. (although really you should use something smaller like this for pruning flower stems)

2-3 lb sledgehammer – A small sledgehammer makes pounding stakes into the ground MUCH easier.

There are a lot more tools and things you’ll find you need but they’re the sort of things you figure out once you’re knee deep in dirt and without whatever it is.

When your garden is so full of food you don’t know what to do with it all, remember to grow and give because you’re sow generous.

O.K. Get out there and get dirty.  Who do you think you are? The Queen?






  1. Sabina says:

    I’m the same zone as you Karen and planted all of my direct sow seeds Saturday – chard, peas, beans, radishes – and then we had monster hail on Sunday. Miraculously the beds looked undisturbed, and well-watered, lol.

  2. Agnes says:

    Speaking of the essential tools, I discovered a great tool, especially for those no-dig gardens. Lee Valley has it. It’s a hand cultivator from Garden Weasel. I got one for Christmas and so far I have scuffed up moss from the gravel, run it over the veg garden rows to loosen and dry the top inch, and mixed in compost and ash. Karen, if you haven’t tried it yet, how about a review?


    Too late. The radishes, garlic, and arugula were planted two weeks ago and the tomatoes last week. but then I live in a warmer place than you live. Kansas

  4. Karin says:

    I might need a tutorial on that hula hoe. Do you kinda chop it like a regular hoe or is it more a raking motion? And do you just leave the weeds where they lie?

  5. Ellen says:

    Karen, how have your peas survived the snows, freezing temps and winds we’ve had?
    I’d like to plant some, but I saw the bunny bouncing around in the backyard this morning and he’d just LOVE some fresh pea shoots. :)
    Think i’ll just rake and maybe move some stuff around first.

  6. Cheryl L Sovern says:

    Any hints or tips for someone who is a first time vegetable gardener? Like how small to start off, best (i.e. easy) plants to start off with in order to boost my already fragile inner-gardener ego?? lol

  7. Eileen says:

    gaaak…tomatoes and peppers are still in their seed packets, compost still in its pile, last year’s leaves still under a tarp on the veg bed….thank goodness I have a cute basket for gathering…um…the veg I’ll be buying at the farmer’s market?

  8. Olli says:

    We planted/set out back on March 1st here (normally would have been Feb 15th but there was a late frost). Sympathies for the Canucks who only have a growing season that’s mostly under grow lights in the basement.

    • Karen says:

      That’s not exactly the case, lol. Our frost free season is 6 months for most areas. Slightly longer for some and shorter for others. ~ karen!

  9. Barb says:

    Clicked on “Hula Hoe”. Got a grass skirt and some pretty funky dancing hula girls. I think they might fit nicely in the pretty garden basket, or maybe you could use it for a scarecrow. I can see why it’s your favourite! Thanks for the morning smile ;)

  10. Ramona says:

    Perfect timing! I’m in Connecticut, and put my cold crops in my raised beds yesterday: went to sleep thinking it was just too windy——I should have waited. But it’s 5am and it will be mild today with temps in the 60s. Can’t wait to check on them! Karen, you truly inspired me to take gardening classes this past winter, buy the proper tools (heat mats and grow lights), and build small hoop houses. I’m excited about having a little farm stand in front of my house to partake in Sow Generous and give away fresh vegetables to those in need. I’m not sure you know how persuasive you truly are! Sending love and thanks xoxox

    • Karen says:

      That’s great Ramona. Thanks so much for letting me know! This year I may add giving away flowers to my Sow Generous repertoire. There’s a halfway house for women in town and I’m almost positive they’d prefer a vase of flowers to a turnip, lol. ~ karen!

  11. Tina says:

    I got such a fabulous crop of raspberries last year, I thought I’d build a new, larger garden for them for this year. What I didn’t take into consideration was that my raised planters stay frozen a LONG time!

    So I got them transplanted last weekend and worried about everything. The planter was still frozen about 3-4 inches down. And the root from these 2 year old bushes was ENORMOUS! But I got them moved…then it rained.

    So when I went out today to check them, I have leaves growing! All over all the (new) canes, I have buds about 1/2 inch apart! These 2 little plants shot up a whole ‘nother plant so I should have 3 producers. Last year 2 plants gave me over 5 gallons of raspberries (plus all the ones I ate or marinaded in a glass of Prosecco). I’m eating from my last bag right now.

    • Rick Peerboom says:

      Dear Tina, What raspberries did you plant and where do you live to get such yields! Lucky you! I’d really enjoy a reply if you can! Best luck!

    • Tina says:

      To Rick Peerboom: I got my mini plants from Baker Creek seeds 2 years ago. I had a raised planter ready for them, the little plants (2 of them) were about 3 inches tall and very sparse. As soon as I got them in my planter, they EXPLODED! Before the end of the summer, they’d taken over my planter (2 feet wide, 4 feet long and 2 feet off the ground) so I had a bigger planter built, 4 x 4 and 2 feet high. I just got them into that planter.

      I was told that I wouldn’t get any fruit the first year but I got a few raspberries. Last summer was their second year. The planter sits in good sun, about 8 – 10 hours a day, and they get watered after dark every second day. I live west of Boston. I work a big tub of bunny poop into the soil in the spring.

      I pick my raspberries early every morning and at dusk every day. I keep a covered bowl of water and white vinegar and put the raspberries in to soak for about 30 min after picking. Then I transfer them to a strainer and rinse in cool water, drain on paper towels and put them on a cookie sheet in the freezer. When they’re frozen, I transfer them into baggies. If they’re well drained, they’ll freeze individually so I can take out a few at a time. I don’t know if I’ve had good luck or this is the right way to do it. I just guess!

      I’ll try to add a photo taken today.

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