Many casual gardeners assume that winter means the end of the growing season. However, with indoor grow lights, overwintering methods, and greenhouses, our growing season can extend throughout the year. During any time of the year, you may wonder, “What can I plant now?“
In this article, we’ll go month-by-month and share a few options for what you can plant today. We’ll assume you are in the Northern hemisphere, but you if you come from down under, just add 6 months!
We live in zone 6a (New England), so we will use this as our primary example, but you can adjust planting times based on your hardiness zone. Generally speaking, if you are in a cooler climate (lower number), you’ll have to wait longer to start your seeds.
For warm or tropical climates, most plants can be planted anytime, with the exception of cold-loving plants. I hope this article helps you keep your love for growing plants alive, even in the off season. Let’s get started!
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What To Plant In Winter
Winter seems like the last time of year to be starting new plants. While in-ground sowing is often not possible due to frozen soils and snow cover, many plants can be started indoors for an earlier harvest in spring and summer.
Short, cold days have set in, but that doesn’t mean that all your gardening has to stop! Here are a few options for what to plant in December.
- Mushrooms. Suitable for indoor growing year round, mushrooms are surprisingly easy to grow yourself. Mushrooms only need filtered light to grow and can give multiple fruiting flushes per grow. The process is very different from growing plants, so there may be a slight learning curve. However, if you want a rewarding winter project, try growing your own oyster, shiitake or king stropharia mushrooms inside!
–> Mushroom grow kit on Amazon.
- Hardy lettuces. There are many special varieties of lettuce that can be sown (under cover) from in later fall through early winter. If you just can’t wait to start planting edible veggies outdoors, try the ‘winter density variety‘ or the ‘winter gem.’
- Cauliflower. Though typically transplanted outdoors 2-6 weeks before the last frost, cauliflower can be started earlier indoors for earlier harvests or outdoors in warmer climates.
–> Try this beautiful purple cauliflower from RareSeeds.
- Garlic. Garlic requires a cold period for ‘stratification,’ a natural process that allows each clove to become a full bulb in the spring and summer. Plant garlic cloves about 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes in late fall or early winter. In zone 6, plant garlic in early to mid December.
–> See the beautiful varieties of garlic available here, or just use organic store-bought garlic cloves!
One of the coldest months of the year, January may seem like an odd time to plant seeds. However, for many climates, some plants require early planting indoors to take full advantage of the grow season.
- Daffodil & tulip bulbs. For zones 6+, tulip and daffodil flower bulbs can still be buried this late outdoors. Plant 4-10 inches deep with the narrow portion of the bulb pointing toward the surface.
- Spinach & kale. In zones 6+, kale can often survive through the winter. Kale and hardy spinaches can be sown indoors in late January to be transplanted outdoors when the weather gets a bit warmer.
–> Get seeds here.
- Parsley. Parsley is hardy in cold weather, but also has a reputation for slow germination. Get this popular, tasty herb started early indoors to get the most out of your plants in the warmer months!
February is when we start getting really excited about the upcoming growing season. Many superhot pepper varieties need extended growing seasons, so our planting starts this month! In warmer climates, tomatoes and other common veggies can get an early start this month too.
- Peppers (superhot varieties). Finally, we’re talking about the most important veggie (according to us here at Pepper Geek ;). Super spicy peppers, like ghost peppers or scorpion peppers, should be started from seed indoors in mid-February (zones 3-7). Getting an early start on these varieties will ensure that peppers will ripen outdoors before the end of the growing season. In short, give superhots 10-12 weeks of indoor growth before they are ready to go outdoors after the risk of frost.
–> See some of the hottest peppers here.
–> Learn to grow peppers here.
–> Get superhot pepper seeds here.
- Strawberries. If you cover your strawberry plants with straw or row covers, they can easily overwinter and come back to life in early spring. If planting from seed, zones 6+ can start the tiny seeds indoors under lighting in February for transplanting outdoors in early spring.
–> Grow ‘Strawberries in a Bag‘ from SeedsNow.
- Tomatoes (warmer climates). If you life in a warmer climate (zones 7+), you can start planting your tomatoes indoors in mid-February or earlier. Tomatoes grow quickly, so make sure the temperatures outdoors will be frost-free in 4-6 weeks!
- Rosemary, oregano & thyme. Most herbs can be started in February for an early start before transplanting outdoors. However, these three popular choices are particularly slow to start, so be sure to give them all the time they need before going outdoors!
–> Shop all herb seeds here.
- Outdoor mushroom logs. If you can find a suitable log (freshly fallen or cut), you can buy mushroom plugs to inoculate the wood with mushroom mycelium. Outdoor mushrooms can be a fun experiment, but they can also be a bit tricky.
–> Learn about growing mushrooms on outdoor logs here.
–> Get mushroom plugs here.
What To Plant In Spring
Springtime is crunch time! Many gardeners realize they are already behind on planting, but never fear. There are plenty of plants that can be directly sown outdoors in the garden, and others that can be started indoors in early spring. Here are just a few of the countless options for planting in spring.
March is the month to start many of the cool-climate loving varieties indoors. We also start many of our tomato and pepper varieties indoors to elongate the growing season, especially in cooler climates.
- Peppers (sweet or hot). The most common pepper varieties should be planted indoors in March for zone 6. Jalapenos, bell peppers, serranos and many more varieties need about 8 weeks of growth indoors before the last day of frost. Be sure to use a light (see our grow light recommendations) to grow strong plants from the start.
–> Get a great variety of pepper seeds on Botanical Interests here.
–> Learn to grow bell peppers here.
- Tomatoes. Most cooler climates can begin planting tomatoes in mid-march. If grown under grow lights, tomatoes will grow very fast. Give tomatoes 4-6 weeks indoors before the overnight temperatures are consistently above freezing.
–> See a great selection of tomatoes here.
- Broccoli & cabbage. Broccoli and cabbage can be sown outdoors a few weeks before the last expected frost. For zone 6, this means late March or early April. You also have the option to plant broccoli and cabbage in late summer for an early winter harvest.
- Carrots & turnips. As winter turns to spring, many cold-hardy plants can be directly sown outdoors in late March or early April. Carrot and turnips are great examples of these cool weather plants that will germinate just fine in lower temperatures.
Tip: These can also be planted later in the summer for a fall harvest!
- Basil. Basil is fast-growing, so you can plant it in March indoors and have a great harvest as early as May. These plants typically continue to produce all summer long, just be sure to stay on top of harvesting! Don’t let your basil go to seeds or the flavor may suffer.
–> Shop basil seeds here (try the sweet thai basil, its delicious).
Come April, temperatures are finally starting to feel warm again in moderate climate zones. More Northerly climates may still have a few weeks to wait for t-shirt weather, but many plants can get an early start indoors this month!
- Cucumbers. For a summer harvest, plant cucumbers indoors in April for cooler climates. They will need about 6 weeks before going outdoors. In warm climates, some cucumbers can be directly sown outdoors.
–> Get cucumber seeds here.
- Summer squash & pumpkins. For squashes, like zucchini and pumpkins, start seeds indoors in late April for an early start. These plants germinate and grow very quickly, so be ready to bring them outdoors when the risk of frost disappears.
- Cantaloupe & watermelon. Sweet, juicy melons need a long growing season to reach full ripeness. Start seeds indoors in early April and transplant outdoors after the last risk of frost. In cooler climates, start melon seeds even earlier for harvest before the fall frost sets in.
- Onions & chives. Onions and chives can be directly sown outdoors 4-6 weeks before your last local frost. Typically, chives will be very prolific in the early summer months and through to late fall. In some climates, chives will survive through the winter and regrow next spring!
- Sweet potatoes. Start seeds indoors to get sweet potatoes off to a good start for harvests later in the year. They can go outdoors when the frost risk is gone (very sensitive to frost!).
There are many more plants that can start from seed in April. It is the most popular month of the year for starting seeds indoors. If you aren’t sure what to start this month, check the back of any seed packets for planting instructions.
In May, many of your indoor-started plants will be ready to move to the outdoors. May is also a great time to get seedlings from your local nursery to plant directly in your outdoor garden. However, there are still a few plants that can be planted directly from seed outside.
- Corn. For a summer harvest, corn can be directly sown in mid-May in zone 6. Corn doesn’t transplant too well, so direct sowing is preferred for most cool or warm climates. It also grows rapidly, making it a fun plant to watch develop through the season.
- Green Beans. Green beans are quick to grow from seed. They usually germinate in just a few days, with some varieties ready to harvest in just 50 days from planting. They are one of the most popular garden plants for a reason! If you are wondering what to plant now in May, definitely consider some tasty green beans.
–> Check out some of the amazing colored bean varieties.
- Okra. Great for soups or in fried rice, okra is a great garden plant for May. Maturing in around 60 days, okra is a fast-growing option for direct sowing now (for zone 6). Okra seeds can be planted directly in the ground as soon as the risk of frost is over.
–> Try this gorgeous burgundy okra for some color in the garden.
- Squash. If you missed the boat in April, many summer squashes are still perfectly fine to plant from seed in May (and beyond!). These plants are so fast to produce that you can get away with throwing a few late seeds in the ground.
If you planted seeds indoors, many cooler climates see their last frost in May. With freezing temperatures disappearing, your outdoor garden can begin to take form!
What To Plant In Summer
While summer is typically a time for harvesting ripening vegetables, you can plant several crops for a late fall harvest. If you’re hoping to plant melons or peppers, you’re too late. However, kale, potatoes and corn can still be added to this year’s garden!
It is really starting to warm up in many regions in the Northern hemisphere in June. This means that most of the new plants added this month will be ready for harvest in later summer or fall.
- Corn. For a fall harvest, direct sow in mid-late June (for zone 6). The warm soil temperatures are just what corn needs to get a great, strong start. In June, the average daily sunlight is long enough to get the plants started well for a healthy fall crop.
Tip: Grow corn in rows together so the plants can cross pollinate properly.
- Cauliflower. Again for a fall harvest, cauliflower can be sowed by seed in June (for zone 6). June-planted cauliflower will typically be ready for harvest in late August.
- Brussels sprouts. For a fall harvest, plant brussels sprouts in mid-June (zone 6). This will give the plants enough time to mature. If you expect an early frost, add a thick layer of mulch around the base of the plant to keep the roots warm.
There are still a few fast-growing plants that can be started in July for a later fall harvest. The varieties that do best will be mostly cool-weather loving plants. Here are a few options for planting in July.
- Potatoes. Potatoes are naturally a cool-season crop. This means you can plant them in early spring for a summer harvest, or about 100-110 days before your last frost for a fall harvest. Start potatoes outdoors in July for a fall harvest.
- Cucumbers. Many cucumber varieties will produce excellent late fall harvests when planted directly outdoors in July. Sow seeds directly in the soil in July for zone 6 or adjust slightly based on your particular climate.
–> Buy cucumber seeds here.
- Kale. While kale doesn’t thrive in hot weather, the plants will pick up when the temperatures start to drop in the fall. For a great fall kale harvest, sow seeds directly in the garden in July.
–> Get kale seeds here.
- Cabbage & broccoli. You can plant seedlings for cabbage and broccoli outdoors in July for a fall harvest. With proper timing, these crops can be sown in early spring and in mid summer for two separate harvests.
In cool climates, August is not a great time for starting new plants. However, there are still a couple of options for planting in summer.
- Peas. For a fall harvest, start pea seeds directly in the ground in August. Fast growing, peas will give you a great snack from the garden when autumn comes around.
- Flowers. From marigolds to snapdragons, many flower varieties can be sown in August for beautiful, fall blooms.
- Lettuce. With cool weather around the corner, you can try sowing lettuces in August for a fall harvest. Leafy greens don’t like the hot, sunny weather, but as summer winds down, the plants will be happier.
What To Plant In Fall
Don’t let the approaching winter scare you. Fall sowing is perfectly acceptable for some plants. Some actually need the upcoming winter to properly grow in the next season!
September is usually when peppers are ripening and harvests are starting to pile up. However, if you want to get started on something new, here are a few ideas for what to plant in September.
- Pansies and other flowers. If you are looking for some decorative plants, try pansies. If planted at the right time, when soil temperatures have cooled, they can survive winter.
–> Get pansy seeds here.
- Radishes. If planted in early September, many radish varieties will be ready for harvest by October! A great, tasty root vegetable to start outdoors in early September.
- Spinach and arugula. Some spinaches are suitable for planting in September. Arugula is great for a quick turnaround, with some varieties ready in just a few weeks. In warmer climates, September is a great time to start most leafy greens for a late fall harvest.
–> Seeds for various greens.
With the trees losing leaves, it seems more like the ending than the beginning of the grow season. However, there are still some great things to plant in October!
- Mums. Chrysanthemums like cool weather. Though most people don’t grow them from seed, they become widely available in potted plant form in fall months. Great for adding fall colors to your outdoor space!
- Tulips. For zone 6, tulip bulbs should be buried in October. If you live in a cooler zone, plant in September, or in warmer zones in November. The important thing is that the soil has begun to cool off from the hot summer months.
- Kale. Once again, kale is an option for planting now. While you may not get much of a harvest this year, if you protect the plants and roots, they may survive winter.
–> Get kale seeds here.
- Indoor plants. We love bringing our pepper plants indoors and down-sizing pots. We even turned one of our summer pepper plants into a bonsai pepper plant to keep our green thumb happy!
Tip: Careful not to bring pests into your house – use neem oil or soak entire plants in a soapy water solution for a few minutes.
To be honest, November is not an ideal month for planting anything outdoors. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t options!
- Garlic. Cooler climates (zones 1-4) can plant garlic in November for harvest next summer. As we said before, garlic requires a cold period for stratification.
- Indoor growing! Again, we can’t emphasize how much we love bringing our gardens indoors during the winter. From succulents to full-blown vegetable plants, the sky is the limit. Get a grow light and start some new plants in a spare closet or corner.
–> See our review of the Aerogarden here.
If you are still struggling to find something to grow now, try the Farmer’s Almanac planting calendar for your local region. Thanks for reading Pepper Geek. If you have any suggestions for plants to grow now, let us know in the comments below!