When is it time to start planting a spring vegetable garden?

You could look on the internet to see when to plant a spring garden in your area. Your county Cooperative Extension Service can also tell you at no charge, like this "Planting the vegetable garden" guide from Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Minnesota. The garden shown above looks wet but only because moist leaf mold was added to the cultivated soil and is now being turned under to help fertilize the soil.

Skip reference guides if you want to try a method that farmers have used to determine when to start working a field. These two methods focus on the dryness of the spring soil.
  • Pick up a handful of soil and see if you can roll it into a ball between the palms of your hands. If you successfully create a soil ball, then the soil is too moist for planting. If the soil falls apart, then the soil is ready for planting.
  • Take a step into the garden and then step back. Look at your foot print in the soil. If the foot print is shiny, then the soil is too moist. If the foot print is not shiny but rather dull looking, then the soil is ready for planting.
I've also read that if weeds will grow in the garden, then it's time to plant. However, I've seen weeds growing in the garden in the winter so I do not put much stock in that method of determining if it is time to plant.