Gardening in Missouri: Soil, Climate and Planting Guide

With an extended growing season and a nourishing environment, Missouri is a place where green thumbs can get down and dirty. However, in order to assure success having knowledge of Missouri soil, specific planting conditions and climate conditions is extremely important.

Soil Conditions

Most backyards in Missouri would provide an excellent place for plants to sink their roots. However, scattered throughout the state exist many areas of heavy clay, and while planting in these areas will require extra steps, the results are worth the effort. The clay soil should be tilled up, adding peat moss, top soil, manure and vermiculite, then tilled again until the additives become part of the soil. Once finished, planting can be done as usual.

Climate Conditions

The first frost occurs in Missouri in late September to mid October; and the last frost generally occurs in the last part of April to beginning of May, dependent upon the exact location in Missouri. This spectrum of temperature change allows Missouri to have a rather long planting season of April through October.

Spring Planting

Plant in Mid April: lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, green onions, spinach, mustard and collard greens, cabbage, beets, peas, cauliflower and strawberries.

After planting for spring, remember that another frost could occur before summer and keep track of weather conditions. If frost is likely the plants should be covered. “This can be done with newspaper secured by large rocks” says Lynda Ashburn, of Hannibal, Missouri. As a retired vegetable provider for surrounding restaurants, she has covered many a plant, “you could also could use trash bags, but I think that the newspaper is better because it is easier to work with and with the plastic you have to worry about getting it off quickly or it will suffocate the plant.”

Special Instructions for Spring Plants

Spring crops are usually ready to harvest by the late spring to early summer, and while most plants can simply be picked off of the plant, lettuce and other greens are a little different. The tops should be cut with scissors rather than pulling them so the leaves can regenerate.

Missouri also has perfect conditions for strawberries to grow, and they do thrive. While most strawberry plants grow in the springtime, certain plants can go through the whole season. The label should indicate the growing season when purchased.

Strawberry plants are also different because they sprout offspring on the main plant that include a very small root system. Without disconnecting from the mother plant, bury the root system right next to it. Eventually it will break away on its own and the process will start again, making possible amazing strawberry fields, such as Lakeview Farms in St. Peters, MO.

Summer Planting

Plant in Beginning of May: sweet corn, tomatoes, green peppers, zucchini, squash, cantaloupe, honey dew melon and watermelon.

Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn
Sweet Corn

“Sweet corn is extremely popular in Missouri,” Lynda Ashburn said, “and can really be planted in the spring or summer. The spring corn plants aren’t attacked by bugs like the summer plants are.” She went on to instruct that an early-maturing variety is available and are usually a slightly smaller version of the summer plant. They are often planted on a black plastic mulch to promote early harvesting.


Tomatoes are a garden standard in Missouri and something that Ashburn knows well. “For planting, get as big tomato plant you can and take off all the leaves except the top.” She further advised that to get a huge root system and hardier plant try planting the root system on its side and bury the entire plant except for the three or four inches where the leaves are still remaining.

Another trade secret she gave was to buy additional seed packages of the early spring plants and plant them in July for a fall garden. These plants will thrive until early October when Missouri’s first frost usually occurs.

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