Minnesota Gardening 101: How to get started!

Senior woman holding box with vegetables

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Senior woman holding box with vegetables

Cayden Mayer, Staff Writer

Given Minnesota’s short gardening season, planting a garden full of produce you actually want to eat but that will be successful in Minnesota can be a challenge. However, just because it’s a challenge does not make it impossible. Minnesota’s growing season is usually from late May till mid-September (only five months). We range from a 3-5 on the USDA’s hardiness scale. Simply put, living in Minnesota means that you just have to be smart about when and how you will plant your garden.

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Once the ground thaws and the temperatures start to warm, decide if you want to transfer your plants or directly plant them. This means if you plan on and have space to grow your own seedlings inside before transferring them to an outside garden or if you plan on planting the seeds directly into an outside garden. Mid-April is the time to start growing seedlings if that is your plan. If not, wait until early May and then turn your soil and gather your seeds!

Minnesota’s growing conditions are great for all types of squashes. This means you can grow your own jack-o’-lantern or have some sweet little acorn squashes for the fall. Squashes should be planted relatively late in the spring, once the soil is at least 65 degrees.  They are also a rather late harvest, often around late September. Pumpkins, acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash all are great options. Zucchini and cucumbers follow a similar planting cycle as acorn squashes and do well in Minnesota summers. They need a fair bit of sun, 4-6 hours per day.

Hearty leafy greens can also thrive if given enough sunlight. Things like lettuce, kale, swiss chard, and bok choy all need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day but have a fairly short growing cycle. They should be planted around June and can be harvested in late August. All of them are perfect for a fresh summer salad to round off the end of summer before school starts in the fall.

Other things that do great are root vegetables. Things like turnips, garlic, onions, potatoes, carrots, shallots, and parsnips all need a fair bit of sun (3-5 hours per day) but are easy to plant and don’t require much work once planted. The best part about these vegetables is that all you need to grow them is an old one. If you’ve ever had potatoes that started to grow little green or brown buds, that means they were ready to be quartered and planted. When garlic and shallots start to get green sprouts on top, that also signals that they are ready to be planted. These plants should be planted in May or early June and can be harvested around late August. Beans, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, and brussel sprouts will all work in Minnesota but require some extra attention given their longer growing seasons and taller heights.