Cool vs. Warm Season Veggies


Vegetables require either cool (spring/fall) or warm (summer heat) weather, and when planted in the right season will provide almost year-round fresh produce right outside your back door.
Hardy cool-season vegetables thrive in daytime temperature as low as  5 •C and can be planted 2-4 weeks before your area's usual last frost date. Plant again late summer for a late fall harvest. They include:
       - broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, onions, lettuce, kale, peas, radish, spinach, turnips.
Semi-hardy cool-season vegetables prefer temperatures between 5 and 10•C and are less tolerant of frosty conditions (however, kale, a hardy cool-season actually becomes sweeter with a light dusting of frost!). Plant these semi-hardy vegetables zero to 2 weeks before the last frost:
       - beets, carrots, artichokes, cauliflower,  parsnips, potatoes,  Swiss chard
Warm-season vegetables need daytime temperatures above 20•C, love summer heat, will not tolerate frost, and some will fail when blasted with cool spring winds. Plant these after all risk of frost is over:
        -  beans, celery, corn, cucumbers, summer squash, melons, eggplant, peppers, pumpkins, winter squashes, tomatoes


Available in a wide range of stunning shades, start beets outside when all risk of frost is over. Beets do like the cooler weather and won't produce well in the heat of summer so keep the plantings to spring and fall - at least 10 weeks before the frost sets in. An odd shaped seed, plant them 1/2 inch deep, 1 inch apart, and thin young seedlings to add to salads and make room for the beets to grow. Firm the soil well over the seeds to allow for good germination. Harvest baby beets at 1 to 2 inches, or let them carry on until they're at a size you like.



Peas enjoy full sun, a loamy, well-drained site and an addition of bone meal and wood ash to get them off to a  good start. Best grown when temperatures are below 20•C, and soil temperatures are consistently above 7•C, plant peas 1 inch deep and 2 to 3 inches apart. You should start to see sprouts emerge in 7 to 10 days. If your soil is too wet, the seeds may not germinate, so keep a few handy, just in case you need to re-seed. Pea plants can grow up to 3 feet high, so include support when planting. For a fall harvest, plant peas 2 months prior to your average expected first frost.


Radishes are one of the easiest cool-season vegetables to grow. In early spring, plant the seeds an inch or so apart, 1/2 inch deep in full sun. Keep the soil evenly moist, but not waterlogged and in about a month you will have your first harvest. Plant radish seeds every 2 weeks during the cool weather for a constant supply. If space is tight, radishes also grow well in pots. For an unusual harvest, try black or watermelon radish. They take a bit longer, grow to 3-4 inches, but are worth the wait!

Swiss Chard

With vibrant stalks of red, pink, orange and yellow and deep green leaves, chard is a non-stop performer that brightens any garden bed. When the frost risk is over, plant chard 1 inch apart and 1/2 deep. As with beets, firm the soil well to ensure good germination. Chard also has an unusual shaped seed and it's essential to have all of the seed surface in contact with the surrounding soil. When the plants are easy to handle, thin to 6 to 8 inches apart to allow for the larger stalks to develop. Young chard makes a great salad addition. Plant chard every 2 weeks for an ongoing harvest.
Start cucumbers indoors 3-4 weeks before the last frost date for your area or direct sow into the garden once the frost risk is over. Cucumbers will not tolerate cool temperatures, prefer warm, fertile soil and a bright sunny location. Mix in compost before planting - cucumbers are heavy feeders and keep the soil moist, but not soggy. If you are growing a vining variety and have limited space, install a trellis and grow the cucumbers "up". Trellising also keeps them off the damp ground and reduces the risk of disease. Direct sow a few more seeds midway through the season, the vines won't take long to sprout and you'll have another delicious harvest before it gets too cool for them. 


There's nothing quite like the flavour of  a fresh-picked, home-grown tomato. Tomatoes LOVE summer heat. Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date for your area. Once all risk of frost is over, and the days are warm, move the transplants into the garden into a bright, fuil-sun location. Tomatoes need at leaste 6 hours of direct sun to help develop that flavour that truly defines summer. You will need to stake, trellis or cage most tomato plants to keep them off the ground, some varieties can reach up to 10' high. If space is limited, consider smaller, container varieties. Keep them well watered, and get ready to feast!


Bell peppers need time and heat! Slow to germinate, start seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost date. Peppers require a minimum temperature of 21° C during their germination and growth period. Plant 3 seeds together, thin out the weakest sprout and let the remaining 2 grow together. The additional leaves protect against sunscald and you'll end up with twice the harvest. Soil temperatures need to be at least 18 C for the plants to survive; don't transplant too early. Before planting add some compost to the site, keep the plants well watered and consider cages to help keep them upright and strong.  

Winter Squash

Another warm-season, frost-tender vegetable, winter squash is available in a vast number of varieties. Whether you're growing acorn, hubbard, butternut, cushaw or spagetti, the growing requirements are the same for each. Start seeds indoors 3-4 weeks prior to the last frost date or plant directly outside 2 weeks after the last frost has occured and the weather has warmed.  The seeds won't germinate if the soil is below 16°C. 
If planting ahead, use peat pots so that they can be planted right in the ground, squash (and cucumbers and melons) do not like their roots being disturbed any more than necessary. Squash needs approximately 80 to 100 days to mature and is ready for harvest once the outer shell becomes hard - unlike summer squash that is harvested with a soft, tender skin.  Keep winter squash well watered, increasing the amount applied when the weather turns hot and dry.  

Cucumber Types... 

Cucumbers are a common sight in the summer vegetable garden
and this low-maintenance, easy-growing vegetable seems to jump
from sprout to full grown in record time. A warm-season vegetable,
the growing time does depend on the variety planted, and the
variety planted depends on whether the cucumbers are grown
to eat off the vine or for pickling.


Slicing cucumbers are the variety most often seen in the grocery store, and are used in salads, sandwiches and eaten fresh from the vine. Dark green and long, slicing cucumbers are ready to harvest in 55 to 68 days when they reach six to 10 inches in length and roughly 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Many varieties of slicing cucumbers also develop long, tangled vines that spread out over a large area and, if garden space is limited, will grow up trellises or through tomato cages.


Pickling cucumbers are ready to harvest within 50 days of planting when they reach two to 6 inches in length, depending on the cucumber planted. Pickling varieties are smaller than slicing cucumbers; have wrinkled, bumpy skins; and are, by nature, firm and crisp. When ready, harvest pickling cucumbers every day or they may become too large very quickly. Regular removal also promotes new cucumber growth and maximum yields.


French gherkins look like miniature cucumbers, but come with a different flavor. Grown under the same conditions as slicing or other pickling cucumbers, French gherkins are fast growers, harvested at four inches long or less and eaten fresh or pickled. Burr gherkins are native to West Africa and are round with small spikes, giving them the appearance of grass burrs. When pickled, the flavor and texture is similar to the French version but this variety can be eaten raw or cooked. Ready to harvest in 60 days when they reach 1 1/2 inches long, burr gherkins become tough if left on the vine too long.

Bush Varieties

The recent introduction of bush varieties has made it easier for small-space and container gardeners to enjoy fresh cucumbers all season long. Short vines that continue to develop full-size fruit keep this plant compact in size. Bush varieties grow the same way as their large vine cousins and need both organic material in the soil for added nutrition, and plenty of water. Start seeds right in their containers after the last frost date or in a protected area prior to the end of the frost season. Regular harvesting of the bush varieties will promote further production of new cucumbers and tomato cages will provide any needed support.

Cucumber Care

All varieties of cucumber like full sun and plenty of water. Plant seeds directly in the garden once the risk of frost has passed, or start indoors four weeks before the average last frost date for the area; germinating seeds need warm soil. Remove weeds by hand when they appear so the shallow root systems of the plants are not disturbed. Add compost or well-rotted manure to the soil to improve the nutritional value and mulch the plants in the summer as the weather warms up to help maintain moisture; developing cucumbers need regular water.