Virginia has favorable conditions for growing crops virtually all year long, and knowing when to plant vegetables will help grow a bountiful garden well into the winter months. Sometimes other factors than just frost dates need to be taken into consideration. Soil temperature and nutrient levels play factors in each growing season.
The average last frost for the Piedmont and Coastal region is between April 1 and April 25. In the mountains, the last frost could be as late as May 15. With that in mind, some of your early crops like asparagus and peas should be planted about mid-February to early March. Chard, collards, lettuce and onion are good to sow this time of the year.
The rest of the frost-sensitive vegetables should not be sown within four weeks of the last frost. Also the soil should be at 50 degrees before planting these seeds. The seeds need the warmth to germinate properly. Another reason the soil needs to be warmer is because the helpful soil bacteria, microorganisms and earthworms are immobile while it is cold. Warm soil allows these to become mobile and benefit the soil and the garden.
If it has been a cold and wet start to spring, wait before planting. Many gardeners rush out to plant their seeds as soon as they can. Though the garden will grow, the yields will be less. Have patience and wait if necessary until the soil has warmed.
The summer season does not mean the end of gardening. Planting fall vegetables in Virginia will provide produce well into the winter months. Salad greens and peas love the cooler temperatures.
The optimal time to plant for a fall garden is between Aug. 1 and Aug. 20. The first frost of the fall usually arrives around the end of October. This will give your seeds plenty of time to germinate and grow. It will also give the plants time to mature before the winter months set in. Most salad greens and lettuce will grow throughout the winter as well.
Before starting the fall garden, make sure to check the pH level of the soil. The garden has taken up a lot of nutrients as well during the season. Spread about an inch or two of rich compost on top of the garden and rototill it in. This will give your seeds the nutrient they need and the aeration to aid in their germination.