JoAnne Skelly: Getting started with a vegetable garden

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It is time to get vegetable gardens going. In Northern Nevada, there are three seasons during which we can grow food: early spring, summer and early fall.

In March, we plant cool season crops. By mid-April, depending on where we live, we can direct-seed most cool-season crops such as lettuce, Swiss chard, beets and carrots until the end of May.

After the last frost in May to early June, we can plant warm-season transplants (small plants started indoors from seed or bought at a nursery) such as tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and squash.

Plant a second season of cool-season vegetables starting in August. Many of these plants can be harvested well into autumn and will overwinter if protected. Garlic is best planted in the fall for a summer harvest.

Our average last frost date is May 15 and the earliest frost date is around the end of September giving us a frost-free period of about 90 days or less. In cooler areas, the frost date may be later. In West Washoe Valley, my last frost date is June 1. Planting dates depend on plant hardiness. Very hardy plants can go in as soon as the soil can be worked. Semi-hardy veggies can be planted two to four weeks before the average last frost date. Frost-tender and cold sensitive vegetable seedlings can go in the ground after the danger of frost is past.

To get started, pick a site that gets full sun for at least six to eight hours per day. Make sure there is easy access to water. Build up the soil by digging in compost or humus. Pick vegetable varieties that will mature in less than 90 days. Seed packets and seedling labels provide this information. Plant seeds at the depth directed on the packet. Water gently and often.

If this is a first adventure in vegetable gardening, start small. Don’t underestimate the time it will take for thinning young plants, watering, fertilizing, weeding the bed and harvesting the produce. Start with a small area of the yard: a strip of land on the south side of a garage or a sunny space near the patio. Or, tuck a few vegetable plants in flower beds; just remember not to use herbicides or pesticides in these areas. By starting small, with a few easy-to-grow vegetables, chances for success increase.

For more on specific varieties and planting dates read “Getting Started with a Vegetable Garden” by Heidi Kratsch, Ph.D., Horticulture Specialist,

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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