You know, I never seem to plant seeds in my garden on time. I start out with the best intentions. Some years I order seeds online in January. By March, I’ve already planned the garden layout. But then spring gets busy. The kids have a ton of field trips. Then come the endless concerts and recitals, cadet activities, and special presentations in the weeks leading up to the end of the school year. I would so much rather be outside puttering around in the garden. But alas, duty calls! Now I understand why my mother never used to plant seeds in her garden in until the end of June.
When You Should Plant Seeds
But by June and July, many other gardeners are already harvesting early crops such as lettuce, kale, radishes and turnips. As I write this, we have already received two weeks of our CSA deliveries from Cartwheel Farm. So is it too late to plant a garden?
Ideally, you need to plant seeds for some crops as soon as it can be worked. Onions, peas, and spinach are very early crops. Plant seeds for root vegetables, celery, brassicas like cabbage and broccoli, and most greens right around your last frost date. More tender vegetables follow a few weeks later. But you really should plant seeds for all your crops within a few weeks of that last frost date. That means, for most Canadians, our gardens should be well in order by mid-June.
Starting a Late Season Garden
Do you start out buying our seeds or even planting those early season crops, and then get too busy to be out in the garden? Or maybe you only start thinking about planting a garden once you make that first summer visit to the farmers market? I know I’m always inspired by all the lovely, farm-fresh produce. It makes me want to plant seeds I’ve hoarded earlier in the year and forgotten in a drawer.
Luckily, it’s not too late to plant a garden if you want to start now. You may want to pare down the number of crops you are growing. You may also have to hold off on plants with a longer growing season. But there are still plenty of fast-growing vegetables, as well as some that are cold-tolerant. You can sow these seeds in the later weeks of summer.
General tips for planting your garden late in the season:
Know your first frost date and check the “days to harvest” on seed packets to determine if there’s enough time left to grow the seeds you’ve chosen;
Look for seed varieties with the word “early” on the packet. These seeds will grow faster than other varieties of the same plants;
To get a head start on your growing season, buy started vegetables instead of planting seeds. Watch for plants that are already flowering or bearing small fruit;
Choose vegetables that are cold-tolerant to extend growing into the fall;
Plant seeds in a sheltered place that will stay warmer towards fall;
Think about planting in containers that can be moved to a warmer spot at the end of the season;
Use row covers and cold frames to extend your growing season into the fall or even winter;
- Be patient and try to remain flexible. When you plant seeds later in the season, the soil temperature and weather conditions are different. It may take longer for some seeds to germinate. Seeds may also germinate quickly but then stall – or the plants may start bolt before they have much time to grow. Be ready to adapt as necessary.
At about 20-30 days to harvest, radishes are probably the fastest growing vegetables and one of the quickest to germinate too. This is one of the reasons that gardeners use radish seeds to help mark the rows for the slower-growing carrots in the vegetable patch.
Radishes can be planted in succession weekly throughout the spring, then again towards the fall. If you’re getting a late start, try planting some of your radish seeds about 1/2” deep and others a little deeper. The ones closer to the soil will germinate first but the ones you plant deeper will give you larger radishes. This extends your growing season a bit. Remember to eat the radishes you thin from your garden too! Radish greens are quite edible.
Radish varieties to try:
‘Early Scarlet Globe’ (24 days): this heirloom radish is a classic; great for bunching and market sales
‘French Breakfast’ (20-25 days): a French heirloom known under the name ‘Radis Demi-long Rose à Bout Blanc,’ this is an early market variety; oblong red radishes with white tips and white flesh; mildly spicy taste
‘Helios’ (30-35 days): a delightful heirloom variety with yellow skin and white flesh, named for the Greek god of the sun
‘Philadelphia White Box’ (30 days): a spicy white heirloom radish that grows well in the garden and can also be forced in containers
Although chard is one of the plants you can sow very early in the season, it’s OK if it gets a late start. Chard takes 50-60 days to reach maturity, but it can be eaten when the leaves are young and tender. And it’s moderately cold-tolerant, so you don’t have to worry if you get a frost before it’s all grown. I’ve picked lovely, crisp chard from my garden late into the fall. One year, we actually had snow on the ground and the chard wasn’t bothered at all!
Not sure which chard to grow? You can go with a classic heirloom variety like ‘Fordhook Giant.’ But I love the gorgeous colours of the chard mixes that most seed catalogues offer. Look for them under names like “Rainbow,” “Celebration,” or “5 Colour.”
Peas take around 60-70 days to mature, so it’s still safe to plant if you have that long until first frost. Don’t have long enough? That’s OK. You can grow the plants for the pea shoots and tendrils. It only takes about a month before you can start harvesting your first, small pea shoots. If your pea plants happen to flower, you can eat the pea blossoms too!
Pea varieties to try:
‘Amish snap’ (60 days): An heirloom snap pea that grows very tall vines; known for its superior sweetness; these peas were grown by the Amish even before the official discovery of sugar snap peas in the 1970s
‘Blue Pod Capucijner‘ (70 days): These delightful purple-podded peas are a Dutch heirloom; flowers are bicolour pink and wine, and fade to blue as they wilt; use as a sugar snap pea prior to the full development of seeds, or allow the pods to grow leathery and harvest as a soup pea (also good in casseroles and porridge)
‘Tom Thumb’ (50-55 days): The tiniest shelling pea, this heirloom is perfect for growing in containers and is especially known as a winter pea that can be grown in cold frames; William Woys Weaver says the peas will survive for several days below freezing; the tiny white blossoms are tinged with green; vines only reach 6”- 9” in height;
Important note: Do not try to eat ornamental sweet peas, as these are not safe for consumption.
Some lettuces are quick to bolt once the summer heat sets in. So if you decide to plant lettuce later in the season, look for varieties that are slow to bolt. Leaf lettuce is easier to grow than head lettuce if you’re getting a late start. Remember that lettuce – and really all of the greens in your late-start vegetable patch – can be stretched by picking it in a cut-and-come-again fashion. Just trim away a few of the outer leaves from each plant and let the rest grow a while longer.
Lettuce varieties to try:
‘Black-Seeded Simpson’ (45 days): This heirloom looseleaf lettuce is very popular; known for its tender, ruffled leaves and delicate flavour; easy to grow from seed
‘Gaviota’ (28-35 days): This is slow-bolting tango-type lettuce with deeply lobed, curly leaves; best for baby greens that add loft and bright green colour to a salad
‘Red Sails’ (45-55 days): An All-American Selection in 1985, this red-tipped savoy lettuce is pretty enough to be used as an edging plant; plant in containers or straight in the garden; baby greens are ready in just 28 days
Other Vegetables to Try Late in the Season
Did you know you can still be planting seeds in your garden in July? Check out this awesome July planting guide with ideas for every region of the US. And come August, it’s time to plant late-season greens and root vegetables for a fall harvest. So you’ve still got lots of time to enjoy your vegetable garden!
Did you enjoy this article? Check out some related content below!
HOW TO WASH AND PREPARE LEAFY GREENS
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HEIRLOOM VEGETABLES?
HEALTHY LIVING HELP: HOW MANY CALORIES ARE IN A CARROT?
Original content © 2017 Kyla Matton Osborne, aka #RubyWriter
This article was published on my food blog, 24 Carrot Diet. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!