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ask-ruth-pictureDear Ruth,

When is it OK to plant my garden? When can I plant what?


Bill V.
Mars Hill, NC

Dear Bill,

Well that all depends.

If you believe the old-timers, when it thunders in March you will have a snow in two weeks. Around March 12 we heard thunder in Weaverville; which would predict snow around March 26th. Ugg. Are you ready for spring yet? But really and truly, right now it is safe to plant peas and potatoes, greens of all kinds, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, arugula, spinach, carrots, onions, asparagus crowns, lettuce, kohlrabi, and others in these families. Any of these plants will enjoy the protection of floating-row-covers over bows, but they don’t require it. Start your tomato and pepper seedlings indoors now, so they will be a nice size by the last frost. It is also an ideal time to plant fruit trees, blueberries and most small fruits.

In April, add radishes, beets, and chard to that list. Start your heat-loving vegetables as transplants indoors. You should treat your transplants nicely while they are indoors. Keep them warm, give them plenty of light, and fertilize them on a regular basis. Products like Neptune’s Harvest Fish/Seaweed Blend are excellent for foliar feeding, unless you find the smell distasteful. (I have salt in my blood, so I like the smell). Planting transplants does give you a jump on the season. You will be able to enjoy eating transplanted crops sooner than that same crop seeded directly into your garden soil.

Wait until the frost date has past to plant any heat-loving vegetables, unless you are OK with loosing them to a late frost. Risk takers have losses, but they often get an earlier harvest too. My neighbor, Elva, always put her tomatoes out early-with milk-jug cloches to protect them-and she was mostly lucky. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, okra and such can be planted around the frost date. Wait until the temperature of the soil warms to 65 degrees before planting your corn, beans, and melons.
Mother’s Day is often considered the frost date in the Asheville area. Wait until May 15th to plant frost-sensitive crops if you live in Madison County, Yancey County, or Mitchell County, and later yet in the higher elevations.

Three more thoughts…

  1. Don’t work the soil when it’s mucky. It can be moist, but should not be super-sticky. Working sticky soil will compromise soil quality. In wet years, it is wise to take advantage of the few windows of opportunity you may have to plant.
  2. It’s more satisfying to have a smaller garden that is well cared for, than a big weedy, out-of-control garden.
  3. Children love to help in the garden. Cultivate their affinity for dirt and growing things at an early age.

All my best and happy gardening,


Ruth Gonzalez is a former market farmer, avid gardener, local food advocate, and founder of the Tailgate Market Fan Club, In her job at Reems Creek Nursery, Ruth offers advice on all sorts of gardening questions, and benefits daily from the wisdom of local gardeners.

Ask Ruth © 2013 Ruth Gonzalez & Organic Growers School

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Ruth Gonzalez

Author: Ruth Gonzalez

Ruth Gonzalez is a former market farmer, gardener, and local food advocate who wants to see organic farms proliferate and organic gardens in every yard. She serves on the Organic Growers School Board of Directors, and in her job at Reems Creek Nursery, Ruth offers advice on all sorts of gardening questions, and benefits daily from the wisdom of local gardeners.

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