Knowing when to plant your vegetable garden can be a tricky question in the zone 3 gardening climate but it is one of the most basic of gardening questions. Today I will share with you when I like to start my various vegetable gardening plants where I live in Alberta, Canada.
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When to Start Plants Indoors
In late January or early February you will want to begin growing your plants for this year's garden by seeding your tomatoes and peppers. If you wait much later you will most likely have beautiful plants that won't have time to bear much fruit if you are vegetable gardening here in Calgary Alberta, or in other similar climates. If you do not want to start these plants yourself I would suggest picking them up at a local greenhouse in May. For a guide on when to start plants indoors for zone 3 gardening and to find your free printable indoor seeding guide, check out When to Start Seeds Indoors.
In early May begin your squash, watermelon, cucumbers and brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) indoors. These should be planted in peat pots, (such as these ones from Amazon) or some use toilet paper rolls, as they do not like their roots being disturbed when they are transplanted. For transplanting make sure pots are good and wet and then cut the bottom off with scissors and plant the rest of the pot into the ground. The rest of the pot will decompose as the plant grow.
For the past couple years I have been experimenting with planting many of my garden vegetables earlier than I had previous years, aiming for the end of April vs. the third weekend in May as I had been doing. It is true that it in southern Alberta, we often experience snow and freezing temperatures over the May long weekend. Even so, many cool weather crops will withstand these temperatures and planting them early can add weeks to your growing season!
Cool weather crops that can be seed in late April include:
You may risk the tops of the potatoes freezing, but even so the plant will send up more live shoots and they should be fine.
Warm weather crops that need to wait until after May long weekend include:
Beans (direct seed)
Corn (if you are up for attempting it)
Squash of all other varieties
Even with waiting until late in May to plant these warmer weather crops, you will need to keep an eye on the temperature. Often in the foothills of Alberta where I am, the last frost is around June 10th. If it freezes and you have these warm weather plants out, you may lose them if they are not covered.
Use a row marker, such as these from Amazon, to mark your rows.
If a late frost does happen, towels and blankets work as good covering options for those cool nights. Just put stakes in the ground to raise the blankets up from breaking your plants. For more ideas read Protecting Your Plants from Frost.