The vegetable crops that we grow in the North Country are placed in two categories:cool season crops and warm season crops. In general, with cool season crops, the seeds are planted directly in the ground in the spring. Cool season vegetable seeds germinate at low temperatures and the plants are not damaged by light frosts. These plants prefer cooler weather conditions and often die back or go to seed with the advent of warm summer temperatures. A cool season crop can be harvested and the area can then be re-planted with a warm season crop - this way you get the most out of your garden space!
Also, consider replanting some cool season crops in August after temperatures start to cool down. Spinach, for example, can be harvested right up until the snow flies. With a layer of mulch, it can sometimes be overwintered for an early start next spring!
Warm season crops that are planted directly in the garden via seeds need warm soil temperatures in order to germinate. If the soil is not warm enough, the seeds will simply rot. Other warm season crops are started inside and then transplanted into the garden after all danger of frost has passed. If the weather does call for a frost and your transplants are in the garden, just cover them with an old sheet or plastic containers - this is usually enough to prevent frost damage on tomatoes and peppers. Vine crops, (cucumbers, squash, melons) on the other hand, are very cold sensitive. Even if temperatures are not below freezing, a cool wind can kill the plants. If the weather forecast is for cool temperatures, wait until June to set out the plants.
Regardless of whether you buy transplants at a garden center, or start your own, remember to harden them off before planting them in the garden. If you move them directly from the store or home and into the garden they will suffer. Gradually introduce the plants to the outside environment over the course of about 5 days. Set the plants outside for a day, and then bring them in at night. The next day, leave them out until after dark and then bring them in. The next night leave them out all night in an enclosed porch or garage. Do this until the plants are outside overnight and then plant them in the garden.This allows the plants to get used to bright sun, breezes, and cool temperatures; it reduces transplant shock which can set back, or even kill the plants.
Last updated March 3, 2020