June 13, 2010

Maine Gardener: You can still enjoy late-planted vegetables

By Tom Atwell tatwell@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that the garden push was over. The Memorial Day planting deadline had come and gone. But you can still do a lot of planting in your garden now.

TOM'S TIP

IT'S TIME to start hitting your local farm stands. Last weekend we had some absolutely wonderful beet greens from our neighborhood stand. They also had asparagus, strawberries, fingerling potatoes, scallions, lettuce, spinach, radishes and Maine-grown greenhouse tomatoes. This is the time of year when you can easily eat local again.

I'm not even talking perennials, trees and shrubs, which you can plant until the ground freezes sometime around Thanksgiving. I'm talking vegetables.

Early planting isn't a requirement for all vegetables. Some do better for planting as a fall crop. Some should be planted several times a year, so you have the vegetables you want for a longer period.

So, this column is going to include vegetables you can plant for the rest of the season. This could be because some of the seeds or transplants you put in early failed -- either just didn't do well or were eaten by woodchucks or deer.

Or maybe it's plants that can go into part of the garden you just didn't get to plant earlier. Others may go in areas where some vegetables ripen early, and you want the land to produce something during the second half of the season.

In my effort to have more vegetables to put in the Atwell root cellar, we purchased seeds for storage beets and carrots. My plan was that once the first crop of peas has gone by -- probably by mid-July -- I could plant some beets and carrots where the peas were.

There might have been a change in plans, however. We planted too many seedlings of too many varieties of peppers, tomatoes, melons and summer and winter squash in March and April, so when it came time to transplant in the garden, we ran out of space.

So on Memorial Day, I put a lot of squash and melons in between the rows of peas, sort of hoping they would produce there after the peas are gone.

If that is successful, I am probably going to have to search elsewhere for the fall crops. But what I suspect is going to happen is that while the peas are being picked, the squash and melon plants will be stepped on and squashed (as likely by me as by the grandchildren), and I still will have room for the carrots and beets.

If you grow corn, and I don't because the raccoons are at it every year, you could still plant it for late-fall eating. Professional farmers want to have the early corn in mid-July, but they also keep planting through mid-summer so they can have corn for the late season.

It's also a good idea to put in some green beans in mid- to late July. The bean plants get tired and stop producing after the first flush of green beans sometime in August. So if you want beans in late September and early October in southern Maine, where frost often holds off until mid-October, put in another planting.

Cucumbers, summer squash and zucchini are other plants that will produce if you plant them around the Fourth of July or a little later. With all the jokes about too many zucchini, you might not want to do that.

But our cucumber plants do tend to slow production in early September, and new plants will produce better fruit.

Broccoli and cauliflower work best as fall crops, Ramona Snell of Snell Family Farm told me last year. They do best ripening in the cool weather of the fall, and should be planted in mid- to late July for harvest in the fall.

Lettuce and spinach should be planted early in the season and cut as it gets ready, but they do not like the summer heat. You can plant both in early August, however, if you want a fall crop.

Other plants that are supposed to be good for planting in mid- to late July for harvesting in the fall are Chinese cabbage, endive, kale, kohlrabi, turnips and collards. We are growing kohlrabi for the first time this year and have never grown the others, so that advice is based on what I have read rather than what I have done. But if you have the space and like them, give them a try.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

tatwell@pressherald.com

 

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