The Green Thumb: Midwestern Gardener


Joanne Johnson shows off her gardening skills with the produce she grew and harvested.  Photos courtesy of Joanne Johnson ’16.
Joanne Johnson shows off her gardening skills with the produce she grew and harvested. Photos courtesy of Joanne Johnson ’16.

As most Macalester students, faculty, and staff already know, Minnesota is known for its long, cold winters. However, as many who leave for more exotic locales over the summer may not know, our state is also characterized by “long” (not really relative to winter), hot and humid summers. This means that we have some rather unique growing seasons. While stagnated during the winter months, the Minnesota gardener is faced with a short spring to prepare their soil and seed beds before a favorable hot summer. Because of this drastic shift in climate, it is important to know what to grow and when to grow it. Planting tomatoes in April is an ultimate no-no as any unpredicted frost or freezing rain could ruin your whole crop. Conversely, try to grow cilantro beyond June and it will dry up faster than you can say coriander. As a lifetime resident and longtime gardener, I have attempted to simplify the timing guesswork for you with this simple monthly planting guide. Now get your hands is some dirt!

April – Early May

  • Stir up garden mulch! And add processed compost if you are a superstar who composts.

  • Spring blooming perennials like viola, columbine, iris, hostas and forget-me-nots.

  • Shade-loving herbs like chives, parsley, cilantro, dill and mint.

  • Cold-tolerant vegetables like asparagus, spinach, okra, onions, radish, peas, lettuce, kale, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, endive and rhubarb.

Late May – June

  • Summer blooming perennials like peony, poppy, daisy, geranium, lavender, foxglove
    hibiscus, lily and primrose.

  • Summer vegetables like green beans, lima beans, beets, cabbage, celery, eggplant, collard greens, carrot, parsnip, pepper, cucumber, potato, rutabaga, summer and winter squash, sweet corn, tomato and melon.

  • Heat-tolerant herbs like basil, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme.


  • Harvest!


  • Harvest!

  • Fall blooming perennials like daisy, goldenrod and hibiscus.

  • Second planting of vegetables like greens like lettuce, spinach and radish.

  • Fall root vegetables like garlic, sweet potato and turnips.


  • Spring blooming bulbs like tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, Crocus and Alliums.