The Guessing Game of Veggie Planting Dispelled

Do you feel like you are falling behind the planting season?  Concerned that you have run out of time to plant your favorite fresh garden crop?

You’re not alone.  The schedule for marketing and selling starts for garden planting is targeted very early in the season, far earlier than most people should be planting many of these crops.  This can lead to a rush to plant too early – or to a sense of futile resignation and a decision not to plant this year at all as Memorial Day approaches.

Don’t panic.  The summer growing season is just getting started.  Unless you have a greenhouse or are willing to invest in smaller weather protection supplies, you should not be putting hot-season crops – tomato, pepper, squash, cucumber, melons, and more – in the ground until mid May at the earliest, and in some situations even that may be too early.  May 15th marks the last risk of frost in our area, but cool wet soils and chilly nights can slow and weaken these plants significantly.  Most years I don’t start my summer garden planting until the very end of May, and a few years have been cool or wet (or busy) enough to find me planting tomatoes and zucchini in early June. I’ve even had at least moderate success planting cucumbers and bush beans through the end of June.

Traditional cool season crops can still be started too, though the harvests may be smaller and shorter than earlier plantings would provide.  Beets and broccoli, cauliflower and kale produce fine from late May plantings, as do peas, radishes, and spinach.

As of this writing (May 24, 2019) I just planted my corn and beans and melons, added ground cherries and tomatoes and peppers, and started filling in the little gaps with crops like leaf lettuce and bush beans – and this is one of the earliest planting seasons I have ever done.  Just a few years ago I was at this same stage of planting three weeks later than this, and the garden was still successful.  There’s still plenty of growing season left, so get out and plant.

~ Darren Morgan