Advice From Darren Morgan –
As the rains have continued through much of May, we often hear concerns about it getting ‘too late to plant’. Spring in the Willamette Valley is quite variable, but mid to late May is by no means too late to start a vegetable garden – in fact, it is the ideal time to plant most of the summer staples.
The average last frost date, the date that marks the ‘safe to plant without any protection’ for tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons, and similar heat loving plants, is May 15th. Yes you can (and many do) plant earlier than this, but you take the risk of downturns in the weather slowing, stunting, or even killing your starts unless you protect them.
As a lifelong Valley resident and gardener, and 26 year nursery industry professional, I seldom plant any crops except peas, leaf crops, and coles (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage) earlier than mid May, and if we have a delayed and rainy spring it is common to be planting my main season crops in late May or even very early June – with excellent success. In fact, planting identical crops in the garden for comparison, my early June plantings often produce better – and earlier – than pushing the early edge of the season in early May.
It’s also not too late to start many flowers. Amaranth, aster, black-eyed-susan vine, broom corn, cardinal climber, castor bean, celosia, coleus, cosmos, delphinium, dusty miller, four o’clock, foxglove, impatiens, lobelia, lupine, marigold, Mexican sunflower, morning glory, nasturtium, salvia, strawflower, sunflower, zinnia are all plants that should be started right now – 1 to 2 weeks after average last frost date.
So, don’t let these showers dampen your gardening enthusiasm; think of them as free water, and garden on.