Home Vegetable Garden Guide

Choosing the Right Plants

Beginning your home vegetable garden begins with your location climate and types of vegetables you choose. The seed packets at your local nursery will have much of the information you need to know.

If this section seems complicated we still have great news! A good seed buyer at a good nursery knows what grows best in your area and has selected seeds that will do well in your area.

Planting Season

Your local climate will dictate which vegetable plants you can successfully grow in your garden, as well as when to plant them. Vegetables have different temperature preferences and tolerances and are usually classified as either cool-season crops or warm-season crops. When planning its best to first determine which type of garden you will have, either a cool season or warm season crop, before choosing plants.

Growing Season

After choosing the planting season, familiarize yourself with your local first and last frost average dates before you choose which vegetables to plant in your garden. In general terms, the term 'growing season' refers to the length of time that your area has the conditions plants need to reach maturity and produce a crop.

When choosing seeds, be sure to select varieties or cultivars that meet your requirements for size, color and growth habit. Choose varieties that will mature before frost. This can be estimated by using the number of days to maturity and comparing it to the days between probable planting date and the average frost date of the area. This information is easily found on the seed packet or in the catalog.


The term 'hardiness' is specifically used to indicate how well a plant tolerates cold. Take note of the hardiness when choosing each plant so you will know more specifically the best time to plant the particular seeds or sprouts in your home garden.

Vegetables grown in a home garden fall into one of four hardiness categories: very hardy, hardy, tender, and very tender. The date on which you can safely plant each vegetable in your garden depends on its hardiness category, as well as a few other factors.

Very hardy vegetable plants will do well in cooler climates, but tender plants must be grown in warm weather only -- frost will damage or destroy these delicate plants.

Hardiness When to plant
Very Hardy 4-6 weeks before last frost
Hardy 2-3 weeks before last frost
Tender Average date of last frost with protection from late frost
Very Tender No frost tolerance, 2-3 after last frost

This information, along with the growing season and small hardiness zone maps can be found on the back of seed packages. Hardiness zone maps divide the United States into areas with fairly similar climates and show you the growing season for your zone.

After considering your gardens wants and the climates needs, simply choose the plants you would like to plant! The next page will give you more information on choosing the right plants for your vegetable garden.