Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

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When can I plant my vegetable garden?

A frequent mistake gardeners make is trying to plant vegetables too early. Working garden soil while it is still wet compacts it and forms clods. To tell if the soil is dry enough to work take a hand full of soil and squeeze gently, the soil must crumble easily if ready to work.

Do not rush to plant seeds outdoors or to set out plants. Most seeds will not germinate well until the soil warms up to 60 degrees. If you sow seeds in cold soil, germination will be delayed until the soil warms up. Also if the soil is cold and wet the seeds may rot before the soil warms up enough for germination.

In the St. Louis area after March 15, the following vegetables may be planted outdoors: lettuce, spinach, turnips, radishes, peas, kohlrabi, onion sets and potatoes. If the seed packet says plant when the ground can be worked it is usually about March 15 or later. Plants of lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower as well as seeds of chard, beets and carrots may be set out after March 25.

After April 15 plant corn and green beans. Tomatoes may be set out after May 1 depending upon the weather. After May 1, plant seeds of lima beans, okra, cucumber and squash. Plant sweet potatoes, eggplant and peppers around May 10.

If the weather should turn unusually cool it may be necessary to provide protection by covering the plants at night with milk bottles or 2-liter soda bottles with the bottoms removed.