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Is it Too Early to Plant Your Vegetable Garden?

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
May 3, 2017        
Source:  Beth Berlin, Extension Educator-Horticulture
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton, & Morrison Counties


Is it Too Early to Plant Your Vegetable Garden?
By Beth Berlin, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (5/3/2017) — May started off a little different than many of us expected with snow.  Weather clearly is unpredictable here in Minnesota and therefore it can be challenging to know when to do specific yard and garden projects. Here is some helpful information that may help gardeners determine when they want to plant their vegetable gardens this year.

Wait to direct seed vegetables such as beans, beets, carrots, turnips, and sweet corn until after all danger of frost has passed.  Historical data suggests spring frost free dates for central Minnesota are May 15-21 for most of Stearns County and counties bordering to the south and May 22-28 for Benton, Morrison, and Todd. However there are counties just to the east and north of these areas that frost free dates aren’t until May 29-June 4.

Not only is air temperature and frost free dates important, but soil temperatures are critical for seed germination.  Beet, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, lettuce, pea, and radish seeds will germinate in soil temperatures as low as 40°F. Although they will germinate this isn’t the optimal temperature. When the optimal temperatures are reached which are typically above 60°F, plants emerge out of the soil in a much shorter period as their growth after germination is more vigorous. 

Depending on the spring, we reach the minimum soil temperatures in the top three-inches as early as April.  Obviously planting very early in April leaves you at risk of cold night time and day time temperatures which may harm the plants after germination.  However, now that it is May and we are approaching the frost free dates many of the crops just listed can be planted as they can tolerate colder temperatures even after emerging out of the ground. If very cold temperatures return in the forecast, simply put protection cover over the plants.

For good success don’t forget other key garden preparation tips such as clearing the garden of any weeds both dead and alive.  By removing the dead weeds from last year, hopefully you are removing the weed seed source.   Also add compost and organic matter to improve soil health and nutrition.  Ideally have your soil tested to determine existing conditions and apply nutrients and organic matter according to the test results.  Soil samples can be sent to the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory. Cost is dependent on which test options you select. Contact your local Extension Office for sample test forms or you can find more information and print your own at Results will be sent directly to you in approximately 7-10 days.


Beth Berlin
Extension Educator, Horticulture
(320) 255-6169
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