Why I Don’t Start Planting a Garden Until May

The view at my house this morning…


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About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of TheSurvivalistBlog.net. He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. I’m in upstate New York and I feel your pain. However, at the recommendation of an oldtimer, I’ve started planting my spinach seed in the fall. Even if it snows again, they’re up a couple inches already and will survive.

    • akaGaGa, I’m from upstate (nanny state) NY too -Oldtimer’s right!, also, garlic does well when it’s planted in the fall. Comes up in the early spring and should a late “freeze” occur ,garlic dies back,but, comes right back up again! just like a “Prepper”- never gives up!!!!

  2. plantlady says:

    Woke up to 4″ of that crap this morn – sigh. We have to wait til after memorial day to plant anything frost-tender…and even then be prepared to protect stuff until the middle of june.
    Even so, my winter salad garden under low hoophouse usually survives. This year not so well – seriously severe winter. I cleaned out the non-survivors and re-seeded april 1 and everything is sprouted and growing nicely under plastic.
    Everyone here NEEDS to get and study Eliot Coleman’s “Winter
    Harvest Handbook for winter food production. It really works – even waaaay up north here! I had been growing my winter salad gardens for about 5 yrs before I discovered him and his methods. I use black plastic waterline cut into 7-8′ lengths stuck in the ground bent into hoops covered with visqueen. Works like a charm. He uses better stuff – but I didn’t have the money so used what I had on hand.

    • Thanks for the book tip. Just ordered it.

    • All preppers need the knowledge of what Coleman has in his book. A summer garden is just that; a summer garden. We eat 12 months a year. With the Coleman method, low tunnel grow beds, Carol Deppe method of growing the higher calorie food for winter storage, and the preserving of the extra from the summer garden, the family can eat high quality food every month of the year.

      • Very heavy frost last night. Covered my blooming dwarf fruit trees with sheets and huge plastic bags tied to the trunk. They look great this morning. The winds are calmer and a little warmer, but not much. Garden is growing onions, garlic, spinach, beets, cabbage, brocolli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, the first small bed of potatoes, and chard. Potatoes are not up yet, so everything else looks great. Biggest task for me is to get the cool weather crops in an out before the heat hits. Should be no later than mid-May. After that, everything bolts.

    • Nancy V. says:


      Thanks the advice. Am ordering the book now πŸ™‚

    • Eliot Coleman has another good book called the Four-Season Harvest. I also like The Year-Round Vegetable Gardner, by Niki Jabbour. It’s a little less technical and geared more towards a smaller scale beginner like me.

    • Paylie Roberts says:

      I personally think that Eliot Coleman’s “Four Season Harvest” is a little better than the “winter Harvest handbook”. They both say about the same thing (sadly – because his information is sooooo wonderful!).

      Back in the day, I paid almost a hundred fifty bucks to see him speak for two days, but it was very much worth it in the end. He showed us how to build a proper hoop house out of everyday materials you find at your local home improvement store. I was able to build a hoop house frame that is 12′ by 60″ for under $450. The cover is a different story, but the frame will probably last forever. I’m going three years now on the frame and see absolutely no wear and tear.

      His information is definitely worth it!

      • Eliot Colemans books are full of great real world info. A lot of what I learned was from his books, and his tv series from back in the day, Gardening Naturally. The series was available on VHS, some used copies are for sale on Ebay. Youtube has bits and pieces of the videos.
        Eliot teaches about history, theory, and practical application of organic homestead and market gardening.

    • plantlady says:

      Oh, I am so pleased so many are willing to look into eliot coleman’s methods…you will be so glad you did! It is so much fun bundling up in the snowmobile suit, face mask, fur-lined elmer fudd hat, big gloves and pak boots – then trudging through deep snow, brushing a foot of snow off part of the low hoophouse and reaching under the edge to harvest fresh, amazingly sweet lettuces, greens, carrots, scallions, etc. Lettuces/greens grown cold are SO MUCH tastier you won’t believe its the same crop.
      Don’t forget his other excellent book “the new organic grower”! And his wife, Barbara Damrosch’s classic “Garden Primer”. I knew about (and revered) her garden writing for 20-30 yrs before I ever heard about her husband! These two books will get beginners off to a flying start.

  3. MD,
    Same here. Having lost plants to Spring frost and snow, I wait to plant until after Mother’s Day. I am going to build a removable cold frame for one of my small raised gardens later this year, so I can start my seeds early and keep them safe.

  4. Donna in MN says:

    I have 3 feet deep of ground frost. Mid May is my time for planting. It has snowed up here in July before with two nites below freezing weather. I think that was in 1992.

  5. Saturday I heard my neighbor mowing his grass for the 1st time this year. When we got up and left for church on Sunday, the grass was covered in snow (just a light powder, but still snow).

  6. Two years ago I had tomatoes by Easter because of a very early spring. This year it’s still mild well onto April. (It’s normally 90+ degrees every day from April until September here in Florida.)

  7. yeah that’s bad, I still have 2 feet of snow in the back of my field. however I already started turning compost and manure into the soil on the areas the snow melted on (south facing slope, the lower area still covered, the hill had more sun and warmed up sooner). I only plant onions and peas this early, lettuce and radishes a week later. I don’t plant corn or pumpkins till june. soon as the snow was out of the way I got my old planet jr out and started plowing.

  8. 15 degrees this morning in SoDak or at least in my part but you can keep the white stuff MD!

  9. Miriam Kearney says:

    We’re getting out the sand bags to prepare for spring floods – some areas around us have already been declared an emergency zone due to flooding. It was like this about 5 years ago and this year is predicted that the waters will be even higher. Too soon to plant.

    • Miriam, could you please box up some of that rain and send it to us in New Mexico? We NEVER have rain anymore…

  10. TexasScout says:

    My tomatoes are dead by May. It’s already 100 degrees. It was 84 yesterday.


    • I don’t know…it was 34 here this morning, and all the plants came inside, including the tomato and pepper transplants. This is nutso for south central Texas. I’m just hoping the cool trend holds out for the summer, but I’ve got my cherry style tomatoes ready to go, then come July, I’ll plant the fall tomatoes.

    • AZPreparez says:


      I live in AZ. Hit 102 where I live yesterday. Last year by mid May all blooms burnt off. Kept most of the plants alive but they did not produce again until late October.

      This I just bought 6 x 100 feet of 75% sun shade (at $1.56 per ft!!) and grommets. Half of my garden is on side yard and is easy to shade while the other half is West exposure. Yikes! I use a bag system so the roots are above ground and it is 18″ away from a block wall. Setting up 1) wooden beams 12-18′ high to protect root systems with vertical holes drilled every 4 feet, 2) 5′ rebar in holes to secure beams in ground and angle for 3/4″ pvc frame for sun shade, and 3) drip line to “water” block fence behind plants. This should increase humidity (we hit as low as 8% in July and early August) and decrease ambient air temp by 8-10 degrees. Keeping fingers crossed!

  11. mom of three says:

    Here in the puget sound region, we are just getting started. I’m about two weeks late getting starts going. I have kale, lettuce started. Green houses are the way to go I will be getting ours up around the end of April.

  12. I try to go by the Farmer’s Almanac – first new moon after average last frost for above ground stuff and first full moon after average last frost for below ground stuff. I also try to consult the almanac’s weather predictions for the area. So, this year my plan is to plant this coming weekend. I’m hoping tomorrow is our last freeze/frost since April 15th is about our average last frost. It’s been really tough to wait because the winter was so cold and I didn’t do a fall garden.

  13. Patriot Farmer says:

    I always wait until the last week in May for planting. I’ve been burned by late spring frosts too many times.

  14. Here in South Louisiana we have had a nasty cold winter that just won’t go away. Tonight it will be 35/36 degrees. Usually we are having very warm weather by this time. I couldn’t wait any longer and went ahead and planted peppers, tomatoes, and several kinds of seeds. The peppers and tomatoes will need to be covered tonight.
    Old people will tell you to not plant til Good Friday or when the pecan trees bud out. I find watching the pecan trees usually works.

    • Hobbitt of the Shire says:

      My pecans are budding and I have tomatoes about the size of a dime. Getting down to freezing tonight. covered everything and am ready as i can be.

  15. Woke this morning to the same site M.D. while I still find it gorgeous to look upon I was not happy to be running around in the utility vehicle gathering my newly potted herbs and heading for the garage to protect them. We are still in the rookie learning curve for cold weather. Old timer here in town said he never plants before May 10th.

  16. I’ve been eating salads and herbs from troughs inside my South windows all winter. My first time. And not my last.

  17. gbigblackdog says:

    Here in NJ along the shore I plant peas and salad greens around St. Pats Day, and everything else goes in around Mother’s Day, because that’s what my mom told me πŸ˜‰ Planted garlic for the first time last fall. Other than that, I’ve not attempted winter crops, but will get the book recommended and try my hand at it next winter. I’m still new at this. Thanks!

  18. Woody from Ohio says:

    yepper–a lot of us thought we were done with the White Stuff. Nope. Here in No. Ohio, we got 1-3 inches of it. Lows of 19*F tonight. the water buckets in the barns will freeze up again,,,sigh.

    Sunday it was 83*F and we had all the windows open!

    C’mom Back, SPRING!

  19. Granny Em says:

    I’ve just ordered that book! It started snowing here about 7:30 A.M. and it hasn’t stopped. I have hundreds of daffodils-wild and domestic- that were about to open. Usually they are fully open when this happens so, hopefully, I won’t have a lot of broken necks this time. This is why we don’t plant anything before Memorial Day. The seedlings are doing great inside, though. Hurry back, Spring !

  20. Dean in Michigan says:

    Yep…..almost planted last weekend, glad I didn’t. My biggest bummer was not being able to see the “blood moon”. Really wanted to see that, woke up at 3 am. and saw nothing but a blizzard.

  21. It is suppose to get down to freezing tonight. I had to call DH this morning and remind him to bring in my dwarf citrus trees. I do not really have anything else out. DH did get the potatoes planted a couple of weeks back and they have been doing well. He planted them in the compost bin that is protected from the north and westerly winds.

    Today is the last day of tax season! πŸ™‚ Yesterday we were so busy that we ordered lunch to be delivered. Two of us got the same thing and both of us were up early this morning making a dash for the bathroom. She is doing a lot better but I have been nauseous all day. πŸ™ Because of work I usually can’t get much planted until after the 15th so that works out. If not I would have lots planted!

    • hi. pain in bum, here.
      look up ‘nauseous’. then switch to ‘nauseated’.
      i wouldn’t say anything but i’m pretty sure that you’re not nauseous.

  22. Finn Mahone says:

    Memorial weekend for planting most things here in the Communist State of New Jersey. In addition I use this date, 4/15 to put away the snow blower and snow shovels and salt. First time I can ever remember expecting snow after the 15th.

  23. We also has snow yesterday, about 2 to 3 inches. Very windy. As I am looking out the window as I type this it is snowing again. Got down to about 10 degrees overnight. An old timer once told me to plant when the oak tree buds and leaves are the size of squirls ears…

  24. There are many ways to extend the seasons mini hoops over raised beds are a favorite-also planting cold tolerant crops is important for getting a jumpstart on spring. Have planted out two beds – but the tomatoes, cucumbers and other heat lovers will not be planted before mothers day. But if I wait to plant the cabbage, cauliflower salad greens and broccoli it would all bolt by July.

  25. CountryVet says:

    If we waited until May to plant here, we would be too far into the heat for anything to do anything. I start my tomatoes and peppers, etc. indoors Jan. 1. I try to get the tomatoes out within the first 2 week of March. Peppers and eggplants usually go out about 2-3 weeks later, depending on how the weather is behaving. I have small squash on my plants and blooms on the tomatoes (evenings are too cool still for them to set, we have had a VERY strange spring.) I have found that if I get the tomatoes out early enough and mulch them heavily with shredded paper I will have tomatoes into July and manage to keep some of my plants alive and held over into fall production. A trick for a cold spell coming in is to take the “long staple” shredded paper and gently shake it over the plants until they are well covered- it acts as a thermal blanket. I have taken baby squash and cucumber plants thru a light freeze with this –

  26. Babycatcher says:

    10 of my 14 raised beds got tented today. I put the frames up yesterday, and this morning in the cold rain got the tarps on them. Strawberries are blooming, so are the apples and one pear. The peaches plums and nectarines bloomed while it was warmer the last two weeks. I would hate to miss a season cuz of this….:(

  27. Depending on the crop, some should be in the ground already, some even planted last fall, despite the snow and cold. Here in southeastern PA our frost free date is May 28th, warm season plants shouldn’t be in the ground till then. There are things you can do to get a jumpstart, start seed indoors, use hoop houses, floating row covers, cloches, to shield them from the cold. Bottles of water can be set among the plants to catch the suns heat, radiating the warmth back at night, ‘hot’ manure piles can raise temps surprisingly high, and plastic ground covers hold heat to warm the soil. Of course if you have the space heated green houses are the best.
    We usually get a small 1-2″ ‘onion snow’, after the onions are planted in spring, during the first week of April. It doesn’t last long but its winters last shot.
    Seems like the last few years the temps are trending downward as the snowfall totals inch up…this global warming is gonna freeze us all!

  28. Some seriously crazy weather this season! Ready for some real spring to stay around.

  29. MD,
    Here in Ohio, I can answer the question of this article in much the same way, with a similar photo. Sunday was 75 & sunny, Sunday evening had rain showers, and today is 30 with about 1/2 inch of snow. Although I have no inclination to move anywhere else, seeing the posts from those who already have things blooming, or can plant a second garden, is sometimes a bit disheartening.

  30. Paylie Roberts says:

    Funny, I just finished building another cold frame late Sunday night. Nothing better than building plant shelter out of old windows you get for free, and old wood you find laying around. I only had to pay for quality screws, the electricity for the drill and saw, and some paint. Okay, so maybe my labor/time is worth something, and now I have to open and close that thing everyday, but sooooo worth it!

  31. Chuck Findlay says:

    Yesterday it was 72 when I was out working on a roof. this morning it was 26 and white all over. I’ve had my fill of winter…

  32. Oldalaskan says:

    Here around mid to late May is the planting season but even then we can get 10-20 inches of snow. Wife twisted my arm while at Sears Friday night and we bought a rear time tiller. I have some seed in pots to see if I can do it and expect to subsidize the local greenhouses this spring. I will try a few rows of sweet corn just because people say it cannot be grown here the ground temps don’t get high enough. But cabbage, carrots, string beans, peas, onions, turnips all the cold crops do well. I have 1/3 Acre here to play with but I will just get my feet wet this year.

  33. Kat's Tale says:

    Brrr, think I am ready for some of that global warming. We have had some beautiful days here in S. Oregon. But goodness has it been cold at night. All the fruit trees are in full bloom, but I am afraid the frost may have killed the chance of a good harvest year. Usually the bees are out and about doing their jobs, but I haven’t seen that many out and about so far this year. Don’t know if it’s from the cold or from the bee mites that seem to be killing off so many hives.

  34. Yup, thats worse than my yard looked this morning, but not by much.

    Upstate NY here too. My “average last frost” is mid May, and I”ll probly have stuff in the raised beds by then, but the frost protection will be kept close by till the beginning of June! But the garlic is already sprouting, I hope I get a crop this year, I didn’t last year for some unknown reason!

  35. D. Smith says:

    Here in so. Mo I don’t plant until mid May either. Some years I could plant earlier but many times I’ve observed plants sitting/sulking waiting for better weather. Peppers, for instance, hate chlll. Even here we aren’t immune to late frosts. Had snow May 5th last year.

    We do put in early frost tolerant items like beets,onions,cabbage,carrots . Plant spinach in the fall and have already had many meals this spring…untouched even when we woke up to 25 degrees yesterday!

    Instead of rushing into early plantings we spend more time working in yard, planting more fruit trees each year. this year 10 more blueberries, 2 June plums and moving the raspberry plants.

    We are lucky to have a greenhouse but starting things a month later saves on heating bill. Seeds come up much quicker when it is really warm in there.

  36. Zone 8 Texas , last frost date 3/15 , 4/15 , (Last night ) 28 degrees , last year 5/12 , 24 degrees , frost is getting later and later , I have had no fruit for the last 5 years , Neither has anyone else round here, gardening now starts here in early may , 3 months late .
    Global warming DONT MAKE ME LAUGH !.

    • Haven’t you heard? It’s climate change now and all that global warming is causing global cooling.

  37. Urbancitygirl says:

    Planted potatoes last weekend and 3 inches of snow fell on tues. I’m so really tired of this long, long, longer than usual winter. We are in the Midwest. Today it’s 60degrees so I’m going to plant spinach, radishes and lettuce by tomorrow. Just topping off a few more raised beds first.

    My garlic that was planted last fall is doing nicely.

  38. I usually don’t plant anything until after Easter week here in East Texas but with Easter coming so late this year I thought I could at least get potato slips and onion sets in the ground. But, because I didn’t follow age old rule (plant after Easter cold snap) I was rewarded with about half of my onion sets getting frozen and dying! Oh well, at least its not too late to replant. The potato slips did fine since they hadn’t sprouted yet. We not only had the 2″ of snow and ice on March 3, we had a cold snap this week (Easter) that got down to freezing. Luckily it didn’t harm anything in the garden. I now have tomatoes, peppers, cabbage and squash in the ground (my wife started some of these from seed).

  39. Here on the Southern Oregon Coast my aunt often doesn’t plant until Memorial Day weekend-but as soon as she can in March or early April she wants the garden roto-tilled for the first time (she’s about 76 and has to have someone else do that work).

  40. AZPreparez says:

    We are focused on produce here, but has anyone else notices a climatic shift? The earth has always had cycles for weather that have been ugly for all life. Dust Bowl in the 1930’s anyone? Why is Greenland no longer green? Sun, oceans, and so many more factors affect this system we call earth.

    While the Midwest to the East and Southeast are getting hit hard, the Southwest/West have it relatively mild. No plants died from cold this year. Last year we had five days of 25 degrees or below in a row.

    My point is this seems unusual given my following of weather events over the last several decades.

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