How and When to Plant Vegetables

Photo: istockphoto/Jim Jurica
Let the weather be your guide to planting beans, cucumber, peppers and tomatoes.

Warm Crops

Warm crops should only be planted after all threat of frost is past.

Snap beans (also called string beans, green beans or wax beans): Direct sow from seed. Snap bean seeds will not germinate until the soil reaches 16 C or warmer. Water regularly especially during and immediately after flowering and once pods have appeared. Beans are medium feeders, so give them a side dressing of mature compost when they get about 15cm tall.

Cucumber: Before planting, prepare a hole 15 cm (6”) deep and 60 cm (2’) in diameter and fill with well-rotted manure. Mix a shovelful of compost with the soil you removed from the hole. Mound this soil over the hole, covering the manure. After planting, mulch with clean straw or fine pine/cedar bark. Keep cucumbers well watered: never allow plants to wilt from dehydration.

Hot Crops

Hot crops are planted only once the air and the soil are warm (i.e. above 20°C). Plant one to two weeks after the last spring frost.

Peppers: There just can’t be too much sun for pepper plants. They like 8 hours of full sun a day and lots of heat. Peppers like warm, loose, well-drained soil. Consistent, generous watering is important for good growth—give them a good soaking twice a week or as the soil becomes dry past the top 2 cm. If the soil is not nutrient-rich, add blood and bone meal to the surface of the soil once a month.

Tomatoes: When purchasing seedlings, look for dark glossy leaves and a short, sturdy stem. Put seedlings into the ground once the temperatures are warm (a minimum of 20°C). Tomatoes like plenty of sun—a full 8 hours a day. They also like heat and shelter from the wind. They are heavy feeders so the soil should be rich with organic material at planting time (I can’t say enough about compost). Water at least twice a week, more frequently if the weather is hot and dry.

Cool Crops

Cool crops, such as spinach, leaf lettuce and radishes, may be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring. It’s too late for this year, but keep this in mind if you’d like to try these edibles in future.

Green gardener Mark Cullen is a radio and TV personality, author of 18 gardening books and answers thousands of questions at Check out Mark's June e-newsletter (available after May 30) for his Recipe for the Best Tomatoes on the Block.