Your growing season is the number of frost-free days where you live. Growing seasons vary from one region to the next and sometimes from one part of town to the next.
There are two important dates that you must consider before selecting your crops and deciding when to plant: (1) you must know the average date for the last frost in spring, and (2) you must know the average date for the first frost in the fall. The number of days in between is the length of your natural growing season.
The last spring frost date determines when you can plant outdoors. The first fall frost date tells you when your growing season is coming to an end. The exact date of the last frost and the first frost can vary from year to year, but if you use the average date of the last and first frost you can plan your garden activities—importantly when to plant—each year.
Where to get frost dates
- Search online for the average frost dates for your location.
- Call the nearby Cooperative Extension Service. Check directory assistance for the number or look online.
- Ask at a nearby garden center or ask an experienced gardener.
Days in the growing season
The length of the growing season – the number of frost-free days between the last frost and the first frost – will have a direct bearing on which vegetables you can grow successfully. Each seed packet will tell you the number of days from germination to harvest for that variety. The days from germination to harvest must fit within your growing season. Typically, you will be able to grow the same crop more than once in an average growing season—but not always.
Growing season worksheet
The length of your growing season is the number of days between the last frost and the first frost. Use the worksheet below to mark your calendar and count the days.
Location of my garden:_______________________________
Average last frost date in spring:________________________
Average first frost date in autumn:_________________________
Average number of days in the growing season:__________________
Growing season and crops you can plant
Now that you know the length of the growing season where you live. You can begin to plan what to plant in your garden.
Make a list of the crops you want to grow. Purchase the seeds for each crop and make a list. Next to each crop, note the number of days from seed sowing to harvest written on the seed packet. The number of days must fit within your growing season.
For example, radishes usually take 25 days to reach harvest from seed sowing. If your growing season is 100 days, you can grow 4 successive crops of radishes in your garden. If you are growing tomatoes that take 90 days from seed sowing to harvest, you can grow one crop in your 100 days growing season.
Use your garden calendar or sketch out a timeline to plan the crops you will grow in the coming growing season.