This bare space in the Atwell’s garden near the foxgloves may get some volunteer perennials that were removed from the vegetable garden. Photo by Tom Atwell

It’s too late to be early, but it’s not too late for a beginning.

Many people have real lives and don’t jump outdoors on Patriots Day to plant cool weather crops like peas, carrots and lettuce. They don’t even rush to plant tomatoes and peppers on the traditional Memorial Day of May 30.

If you are one of those folks, don’t worry. You can start a productive garden of vegetables and flowers now, or even in as late as July, if you’ve just now arrived at your summer home or for some other reason only just found time to turn your attention to the garden.

I myself will be doing a lot of planting in the next few weeks. Some of it is succession planting in our vegetable garden. I intend to plant (at least) lettuce, carrots, beans and beets in the next week or two, to provide us with small, tender vegetables in the first few weeks of fall before a hard frost finally halts production. Some years, I’ve done a late planting of peas, too, so we can enjoy them as late as August, but we are not expecting pea-loving guests that late this year, so I probably won’t.

A vase of zinnias. Though Atwell planted the seeds late last year, he was still able to get cut flowers. Shutterstock

You can plant ornamental plants late, too. Last year, I discovered some zinnia seeds in late June that I’d forgotten to plant. I put them in the garden, regardless, and later in the season, they produced wonderful cut flowers.

Truth is planting time is anytime you find a plant – or maybe even a seed – that you want to plant. If you enjoy doing it, why not spread out that enjoyment?


I have mentioned in past columns that the garden where my wife Nancy and I plant our vegetables is not really a vegetable garden. It has as many flowering plants interspersed – perennial asters seemed to be the winners this year – that have just shown up over the years.

So when I purchased the tomato, pepper and squash seedlings that I planted a few week ago, Nancy and I had to consult about which volunteer flowering perennials could be left where they were and which would have to be dug up, temporarily put into pots, and watered regularly until we decide where in our ornamental gardens they should go.

We’re waiting because while we have an idea of how the garden will look in late July or August, there are always surprises. And those surprises can affect where we plant those leftover plants.

Near the shed, I’ve already planted six pots of perennial pink asters that we’d removed; the plan is that they’ll hide the cinder blocks and bricks I store there that I’m saving for future projects. But about 12 pots of these volunteers remain at the edge of our driveway. Some will probably go into an area that used to be shaded by our neighbors’ pine trees – a spot next to our raspberry bushes; the neighbors took down those trees early this spring after a December wind storm blew down one of them.

Our foxgloves are having their moment in that area this month, but part of succession planting is thinking ahead for future “crops,” be they vegetables or flowers.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at:

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: