When is the right time to start a garden?

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I get asked this question often. Or more often, I hear from friends who are sure they already have the answer:

“Isn’t it too late to start a garden?”

All the big box store commercials would have us believe that we have a short little window of 4 to 6 weeks when it’s the ‘perfect time’ to start a garden and if we didn’t get our timing just right, then we might as well wait until next year.

It was a Nashville summer in 2011. With three small kids in tow, desperate for something new to do at home that didn’t involve groceries or laundry or picking up toys, I decided to ignore the fact that everyone said it was ‘too late’ and started my garden anyway.

I’d been wanting a garden for a few years but with toddlers and grad school and a recent family move, it seemed like a backyard garden was a dream that just had no time to come true.

“Better late than never” was my motto when we dug up the grass and planted our first seeds right in the middle of a sweltering July afternoon.

I’d learn later that we did pretty much everything wrong. We didn’t plant enough corn (the few stalks that grew would all fall over in an upcoming thunderstorm), we planted on a slope (most of the seeds would soon wash into the common area when heavy rains hit), and the few tomatoes that grew would never make it inside (the neighborhood raccoon would find them first!).

But even with all the disappointments and the bad timing, we didn’t come away empty handed. We ended up with loads of basil, bush beans and potatoes and armloads of sunflowers and zinnias.

More than that, we grew something even more valuable: experience.

That ‘poorly timed’ summer in the garden taught me so much, especially this fact: we don’t learn a single thing by waiting to start the garden. We only learn by gathering our seeds, digging a hole and going for it. Even when the timing isn’t perfect.

Ever since that summer, when someone asks about the best time to start a garden, my answer is always the same:


Because even if the conditions aren’t perfect or the timing isn’t great, there really is always something you can grow.

That ‘failed’ summer garden led to a fall garden in Nashville which was full of leafy greens, loads of herbs, carrots and peas too. And the next year, because the garden was already set up, we were able to start our seeds and plants much sooner in late winter and early spring.

And when the next hot summer rolled around, we were more ready than ever. We now knew to go all in with the corn or skip it altogether, we leveled the slope and built raised beds instead and we learned to pick the tomatoes when they were green so we’d get them before the raccoon did.

So, wherever you area and whatever time you’re reading this, if you’ve got a little itch to start a garden (and you know you do) then start it today.

Start it as small as you need to with whatever you need to. But just start. Even if it fails, you’ll find you’ve grown something that no perfectly timed garden can give you: experience. And that is a harvest that’s so good, it will keep you coming back for more next season and for all the seasons to come.

Learn more about my Nashville gardening experience and the step by step to create your own raised bed kitchen garden and plan out each of your own gardening seasons in my book, Kitchen Garden Revival.

Book Purchasing links:
(all purchasing links here) – https://www.gardenary.com/book

– Dawn Jones

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