June 17, 2012

Maine Gardener: Months into gardening season, and still plenty to plant


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Annuals like begonias provide great color.

But there are a lot of vegetables that are ideal to plant right about now.

Professional farmers plant greens -- lettuce, mesclun, Swiss chard and the like -- throughout the season. They come up quickly, and can be cut regularly. You could probably do one more planting now, and then delay until mid-August. The greens hate hot weather, and will do better in the fall.

And let me tell you a secret about cucumbers, squash and melons: Yes, you can plant them on Memorial Day and they will survive. But they like really warm weather, and right now is just about the perfect time for planting them. You really don't even have to buy seedlings. Just plant some seeds in the ground and water them regularly. They will pop up within a week and have good-sized plants by early July, and probably have edible cucumbers and zucchini by the end of July.

I have never done this experiment, but I should. I would like to plant some cucumber and zucchini seedlings on Memorial Day, and plant some cucumber and zucchini seeds in mid-June, and see which produces fruit sooner and more fruit overall. I am pretty sure the seeds would win out -- at least in the overall production, if not in the first fruit.

Although you can plant broccoli and cauliflower early, they really do better planted as a fall crop. They should be planted in late July or early August, and harvested in September.

And it is never too late for containers. If you just want some color on your patio -- or anywhere in your yard -- you can buy a mixed container of annuals.

And heck, if you have a sunny area right next to the house that's protected from the wind, plant tomatoes and peppers. They might ripen quickly.

If you want to be really adventurous, you can mix the flowers and the vegetables. Looking out onto our patio, I see at least three of those mixtures right now. Nancy put some onion plants into the same pot with a red geranium, and a decorative (purple leaf) pepper into a pot with some johnny-jump-ups and a gray artemeisa.

There are some patio tomatoes in a grow bag that I'm experimenting with. They're doing quite well on the edge of our patio.

See what you can put together.

FOR THIS WEEK'S garden tours, head west of Portland on Saturday.

The "Tucked Away Treasures Garden Tour" features six private gardens in Limington. Tickets are $14 ($12 for seniors) at Davis Memorial Library, Steeplebush Farm Herbs and the Country Collection in Limington. For more information, call 637-2422 or email davis memorialibrary@yahoo.com.

The Buxton Garden Club presents a self-guided tour of eight gardens, "All Around Town," from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets cost $18 with lunch or $12 without lunch, and are available at 409-6197, 929-3401 and buxtongc@yahoo.com, as well as O'Donal's Nursery in Gorham and Frugal Farmers in Buxton.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer who gardens in Cape Elizabeth, and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:



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