This season’s weather has been challenging for planting. Frequent heavy rains and cool temperatures made it impossible for many farmers to get into fields to plant and, similarly, for home gardeners to get into vegetable gardens.
We’re also running out of time. Some farmers will have to leave fields unplanted because there isn’t enough growing season left for the crops to mature. For the gardener, we’ve still got three to four months before a frost. It’s a gamble, of course, since every season is different, and frost is often hit-and-miss depending on cloud cover and elevation.
And some vegetables are better for late planting than others, since factors like day length and night temperatures can determine fruit set and maturing of the edible part of the plant.
For example, onions planted after the summer solstice will not form a good bulb. So, storage onions are out for this year. But they can certainly be planted and harvested as fresh green onions for salads, cooking, salsas and freezing.
Root vegetables like carrots may not grow as large, but fortunately baby-size veggies are sweet, delicious, and nutritious, so there is still plenty of time to grow something good to eat.
When choosing seeds to plant, look at the days to maturity on the packets to avoid choosing something that won’t have time to mature. But do keep in mind those that can be enjoyed as baby or micro vegetables, like greens, lettuce, beets, peas, beans, summer squash and cabbage family veg such as kale, cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower.
Garden favorites like tomatoes and peppers require a long season and must to be started from seed planted in late winter, whether you do it yourself or buy young plants from the greenhouse or garden center. There will be fewer varieties to choose from now, and some garden centers may have taken away their vegetable plant displays, so you might have to shop around.
But with the growing interest in patio gardening, even the big box stores are selling large tomato plants, ready to display and grow. Others offer individual plants in 4- to 6-inch pots that can be transplanted to the garden or larger container to grow at home.
If you haven’t yet done anything with the vegetable plot — or maybe it is still a muddy mess — it’s OK to skip a year. Grow a few of your favorite veggies in containers.
Bigger pots are better for just about everything. Something the size of a whiskey half-barrel is ideal, as are large nursery pots that you may have saved from tree purchases. I’m always looking for bargain containers at the end of the season, but deals may be a bit difficult to find this time of year. Lightweight plastic pots work well, as they are easy to handle and store. You can get creative and make your own growing containers from things like buckets or storage totes — just make sure to drill plenty of drainage holes in the bottom, a half- to full-inch in diameter.
Buy good quality potting mix rather than using dirt from the garden. This ensures good drainage in the containers and has the bonus of being weed-free. Mixing in some garden soil is OK to help stretch the budget, but keep in mind that it also adds more weight to the container.
Loosen the roots of transplants if they are filling the pack or pot and take care to water well at the base of the plant until roots have grown out into the container’s soil. Fertilize regularly with either a water-soluble product like Miracle-Gro or a sprinkling of slow release granules over the soil surface.
It’s not too late to get growing.