The most typical gardening pattern for North America is the Spring-Summer-Fall (S-S-F) gardening season. These gardeners have a spring frost date (the average date of the last spring frost) and a fall frost date (the average date of the first fall frost), and have to fit in all the gardening in between!
S-S-F gardeners plant Hardy vegetables in the spring, followed by Semi-Hardy. After the frost date, they plant Tender and, a few weeks later, Very Tender plants. Soon the temperatures are too warm for the Hardy and Semi-Hardy plants, and they must be harvested or go to seed.
If the growing season is long enough, S-S-F gardeners can plant a second time, for harvesting in the fall. The fall garden generally includes a second planting of Hardy and Semi-Hardy plants. Most of the Tender and Very-Tender plants take a long time from seed to harvest, so they are still growing until the fall frost kills them.
Spring and Fall
Some folks live in areas where it is cold to grow in the winter, and very hot in the summer. These areas have a spring frost date (the average date of the last spring frost) and a fall frost date (the average date of the first fall frost), and in between the temperatures soar.
This creates two growing seasons—Spring and Fall (S-F). In the spring, S-F gardeners should choose bolt-resistant varieties of Hardy and Semi-Hardy veggies that mature more quickly. This will increase your odds of a good harvest before temperatures get too hot.
The good news is, since they live in the South or Southwest, these gardens get lots of sunshine and enjoy mild winters. While most people will only plant Hardy and Semi-Hardy vegetables in the fall, these gardeners can often plant Very Tender and Tender vegetables as well. By choosing varieties that do well in cold weather, S-F gardeners can have success growing Hardy and Semi-Hardy vegetables all winter long!
Often S-F gardeners have a longer time frame for sowing seeds, especially for a fall garden, and winter conditions that allow the hardiest plants to survive. If you are a S-F gardener and follow my Planting By Color schedule, please remember that it outlines the soonest and latest you can plant for spring and fall gardens. You may have more flexibility in when you plant.
Some locations are simply too hot to have a successful garden outdoors during the summer, but they have no fall frost date, or such a short, mild period of potential freezing temperatures that they can grow a garden all winter. Then, they continue gardening in the spring until temperatures get too hot again in the summer. These gardeners have a Fall-Winter-Spring (F-W-S) pattern.
F-W-S gardeners will have success planting Hardy and Semi-Hardy vegetables in the fall, and then planting Tender and Very Tender vegetables in the Spring. Like the S-F gardens, many Hardy and Semi-Hardy plants can be grown later, and possibly all winter long. This means the time to sow plants may be extended as well.
I envy those gardeners who live in areas without any frost, and climates mild enough to grow a garden all year round! Theoretically, you could plant any vegetable at any time. In practice, certain vegetables will grow better if planted in the right season.
Hardy and Semi-Hardy vegetables will thrive if planted in the fall and grown all winter, into the spring. Tender and Very Tender vegetables should be started in the spring, to grow all summer and harvested in the fall.
You will notice that most seed packets indicate planting date based on frost-date. If you don’t have a frost date, your planting schedule is probably related to the hours and intensity of sunlight you receive and average temperatures. Just because you live in an area without a frost date does not mean that my Planting by Color schedule does not pertain to you. For example, many areas in Northern California have no frost dates, but their planting times are the same as the Orange group.