How to Grow Vegetables in New England


Although New England has a short summer growing season, it is long enough to grow most vegetables successfully. You'll be most successful if your garden is in an area that gets full sun, is well drained and keeps animals out.

Step 1

Choose your garden site carefully. Locate it where you can easily get water to it with a sprinkler. If this is an area that has never been used as a garden, you should hire a rototilling service to till the area, because it can be a strenuous task. If the soil has a lot of clay, adding some peat moss, composted cow manure and sandbox sand during the tilling process will help keep the soil looser. This helps the roots grow and lets the water seep deep into the ground. Once the soil is tilled, you can make rows using the hoe.

Step 2

Purchase quality seeds and seedlings. Go to a reputable greenhouse for your seedlings; the growing season is not long enough to grow tomatoes from seed. A local greenhouse will be able to advise you on which vegetables you can grow from seed and which should be from seedlings, and will be able to tell you when you can safely plant in your area, which varies throughout New England. If an unexpected frost is predicted after planting your seedlings, you can protect them by covering them with a sheet or plastic milk/water jugs with the bottom cut out. Peas, which should be planted in April, won't mind the cold New England nights and do not need to be covered against a frosty night.

Step 3

Make straight rows in your garden by putting a wooden stake or stick on each side of the garden and tying string or yarn between them. Keeping straight rows makes it much easier to tell weeds from emerging seedlings. Just move the stakes and string over as your do each row. Mark each row with markers so you can identify each plant as it comes up.

Step 4

Water vigilantly during the season, especially in August when it tends to be dry. It is best to water after the sun goes down, which allows the roots to soak up the water without the sun evaporating it. Keeps weeds in check by hoeing between the rows and hand-picking those that are close to the plants.

Step 5

Call your local extension service to find out approximately when the first frost of the fall comes; this is the time you'll be busy harvesting and getting your garden ready for next year. As that date approaches, hurry the ripening process on the tomato plants by driving the head of a shovel down right beside the plant to cut some of its roots. This signals to the plant that it needs to ripen the rest of its fruits. Slightly red ones will ripen if you put them in a paper bag with an apple, which gives off a gas that helps ripen tomatoes. Root vegetables, such as carrots, turnip, potatoes and parsnips, can stay in the ground for weeks after a frost. The tops of the plants will die, but the vegetables will continue to grow.

Step 6

Pull all plants after you have harvested all the vegetables. If you haven't already started a composting bin, you would be wise to start one at this point with the vegetable plants and some of the fall leaves. Many people add a layer of lime on the entire garden area if the soil tends to be acidic (you can purchase kits to check the acidity of your soil), and some gardeners choose to have the garden tilled in the fall.

Tips and Warnings

  • In rural areas of New England, you may find animals such as skunk, woodchuck, rabbit and deer to be a problem in your garden. The Extension Service can give you advice on how to deal with this problem. In some instances, playing a radio at night will work or you could try a motion-sensor light. Have-a-heart traps can be employed to trap the animal and transport it miles away, or a very tall chain link fence could be erected.

Things You'll Need

  • Hoe
  • Hand shovel
  • Gardening gloves (optional)
  • Seeds and/or seedlings
  • Marker sticks for labels
  • Permanent marker
  • 1-foot sticks
  • String or yarn


  • University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service
  • New Hampshire Extension Service-When to Plant (PDF)

Who Can Help

  • Seed Source for Seed Varieties Suitable for New England
Keywords: gardening in maine, northeast vegetable gardening, new england gardening

About this Author

Linda Batey has been working as a freelance writer for two years and specializes in travel writing. She also writes on Helium,,,, trazzler and She has been published in "Gardening Inspirations" magazine. Batey holds an Associates Degree in paralegal from Beal College. She also is knowledgable is gardening, herbal and home remedies.