Vegetable gardeners who enjoy a challenge have already begun their 2011 planting, but for many other gardeners the first three months of the year are spent in different pursuits, maybe unrelated to vegetable gardening. Imagine travel to tropical places! Whichever gardener you are, here’s a continuation of the planting calendar I began last month, picking up with April and going into the fall.
As the Lopez vegetable gardeners who shared their planting calendars suggest, many seeds can go directly into the ground in April and May and on through to September, but making the extra effort to start seeds of some plants inside assures germination. And even those seeds planted outside may need some cosseting. Once again, the calendar is one piece of the planting puzzle; weather and soil conditions are others. And as with the first quarter of the year, there’s a big window for planting many seeds and opportunities and even advantages to planting more than once.
As one gardener joyously wrote, “anything that isn’t frost or cold sensitive” can be seeded outside now. Plant greens like chard, endives, kale, lettuces, mustards, radicchio and spinach. Plant roots: beets, carrots and radishes.
But as another gardener added: “ Succession planting is key!” Consider planting small amounts of these crops at intervals throughout April and May, every two to four weeks, so that you’ll have a steady but not overwhelming supply.
Transplant brassicas like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli if you started them earlier. You can direct seed them outdoors now but many gardeners continue to start brassicas indoors in four-inch pots, grow them to three or four inches tall, harden them off, then transplant them.
Also in the start-indoors-and-transplant-later column are beans, corn, cucumbers, melons, summer and winter squash, and pumpkins. While any of these seeds can be planted outside in mid-to-late May, many gardeners like the security and head start of planting indoors.
Two important pieces of advice are to transplant well before the plants outgrow their pots and to harden off all indoor-started plants before setting them into the ground. Introduce them to the outdoors gradually: a day or two in a shaded area, a day or two in partial sun, then a day or two in the sun.
The planting calendar for May looks a lot like the calendar for April though as one market gardener said, “Now things get crazy!”
Plant second or third crops of greens and roots, or plant them for the first time. Start beans, corn, cucumbers, summer and winter squash, and pumpkins inside during the first half of the month if you haven’t already or watch the weather forecasts for a stretch of warm, dry days and plant them outside. Use Reemay or other row covers to add a few degrees of extra warmth to the soil.
Start winter leek seeds in an outdoor nursery bed and plan to transplant them into rows by mid-July.
June and July and into September:
These are the months when gardeners who want to harvest vegetables beyond the end of summer start planting winter-hardy vegetables. Many of these gardeners are the same people who were pushing the season in January and February, gardeners passionate about harvesting fresh vegetables year-round. Join them if you’re so inclined or rest now!
In pots, start Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbages and cauliflower from early June until mid-July and transplant into spaces left by early spring vegetables.
Outdoors, plant more carrots and beets and plant parsnips if you haven’t already.
Around July 15, plant kale, rutabaga, turnips and more carrots and beets outdoors and between July 15 and September 30 plant hardy greens, indoors or outside. An advantage to starting greens like mache, endives, escaroles, radicchio and winter lettuces indoors is that you’ll have sturdy plants ready to set out as garden space becomes available. Plant arugula and mustards outside.
As the days shorten, the nights cool and the first frosts appear, these summer-planted winter roots and greens will sweeten and provide satisfying meals well into the beginning of the next planting year. Enjoy!