Well, here it is, almost the beginning of May and things are right on schedule. Wait, what? It’s the beginning of June? As in, it’s almost summer? How the heck is it almost June? Certainly none of my plants think it’s June, so I’m terribly sorry but you must just be mistaken.
OK, back to reality. It’s almost June and it’s been a great spring for salad greens, brassicas (my broccoli is fantastic this spring) and cool weather crops. My spinach lasted an unheard of number of weeks before bolting.
You guys know how I am fanatical about cloching and season extension. Here’s the downside to my enthusiastic use of the tunnel cloche: one good bright sunny day (it doesn’t even have to be that hot) can turn a closed off tunnel cloche into a plant oven in a hurry. We get a lot of days at this time of year with 3 or 4 bright sunny hours book-ended by overcast or drizzle. Your cloches really need to be vented if it turns sunny. At this time of year I usually just leave the ends of my tunnel cloches open on all but the most tender of plants.
Keeping the poly-tunnels on the warm weather beds as long as possible, even with open ends, really does a lot for the plants, though. A few degrees is a big deal to a tomato or squash or cucumber that languishes at overnight temps of 53 degrees and grows happily (well, grudgingly, at least) at 57 degrees. Just watch for that overheating during the day.
Plan & Purchase:
Fall seeds! Yup, time for another seed order. Can’t say I mind! I’m out of fall and winter cabbages so that’s what I’ll be ordering. Territorial has a dedicated fall gardening catalogue that I love, but if you want to get a jump on your decision making, they list most (all?) of the winter-appropriate varieties on the website too.
This is going to sound nuts, but in mid-to-late June it’s time start the first wave of fall and winter crops. Brussels sprouts take forever to grow, so if you want them for Thanksgiving (and you really do) you’ve got to start them now. Fall and winter cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli and kohlrabi (the big winter-keeper types) can be started from mid-month onward through mid-July.
At this time of year, if you have a greenhouse or sunny porch, you can start the fall crops outside, either in a nursery bed or in little pots. They will dry out quickly, though, so be diligent about watering. You can also turn the seed lights back on and start them indoors. Be aware of what varieties you are planting. Spring brassicas aren’t bred to hold up in winter weather, so seek out varieties that will work for when you plan to harvest them.
Sow & Plant Outside
- Beans – Even with this cruddy spring, the soil should be warm enough to plant beans. A trick to speed things along is to lay a sheet of clear plastic over the soil (an old dry cleaners bag works well). This gets a bit of extra heat into the ground to help the beans germinate quickly. When you see the beans poking up out of the soil remove the plastic. I like pole beans because you get a lot more beans over a longer harvest time as compared to bush beans.
- Summer & Winter Squash – I transplanted my started squashes into the garden over Memorial Day weekend. They were already to gallon pots, and the zucchini have miniature fruit on them. I’ve got plastic pots and cloches over all the squashes I can. Some just aren’t planted in spots that make cloching realistic so we’ll see how they do. It isn’t too late to start summer squashes from seed. Just pop a few seeds in and see how they go. If you are starting winter squash from seed now, just check how long your variety takes to mature. Pick a shorter season variety because winter squash really needs those couple weeks at the end of the season to cure up for storage. As always, black plastic or cloches to warm the soil will help.
- Melons – I don’t grow melons but I think you still have time if you grow a short season variety and work some serious black plastic magic to keep the soil as warm as possible. Don’t delay, though, you’ll need every day from here on out.
- Cucumbers – Sow directly and try trellising! Cucumbers are easy to grow vertically and you get much straighter cukes that way. I’m growing a bunch for pickling.
- Brassicas – Asian greens like pac choi and chinese cabbage, etc. can be direct sown now.
- Root Vegetables – You will have the best results in loose open soil and I encourage you to cover your carrot and parsnip seedlings with row cover to prevent the carrot root maggot from destroying your veggies. A last crop of potatoes can also be put in at the beginning of the month. Mid-to-late June you can start to put in your fall crop of root veggies. Your main sowing of carrots can go in, along with parsnips (last chance on these), beets, rutabaga and turnips. If you are plum out of room in the garden, these crops can be sown through July but yield and harvest size will be smaller.
- Corn – Beginning of June is the last opportunity for late season corn, so I’m told. Apparently corn should be “Knee-high by the 4th of July.” Right now, from where I’m sitting that seems ambitious, but then again I do not grow corn myself and apparently it is incredibly fast once it takes off.
- Greens – lettuce (new month = new sowing of lettuces), fall greens like mache, endive, radicchio, mustards, arugula, cress and greens mixes. If you started greens in containers last month harden them off before you settle them into their outside bed.
- Swiss Chard – There’s still time to plant Swiss Chard for bountiful late summer and fall harvest. I’ve had a terrible time getting my nice fresh chard seed to come up this year. I think the slugs are chomping the seedlings as fast as they germinate. Thankfully my friend sowed her Bright Lights Swiss Chard a little too thickly. I transplanted her thinnings and they are growing in my yard now.
- Onions – green onions and overwintering leeks can be sown. Chives and garlic chives can be started for a harvest next year.
- Herbs: Chives, parsley, mints, marjoram, oregano, dill, fennel, borage and the like can all be sown out. Cilantro, fennel, dill, and of course basil can all be grown.
Look, I know we are overdue to plant out tomatoes and peppers (and good luck, those of you doing eggplant – I salute you!). I wish I had better news but night-time temps in my neck of the woods are still in the high 40s. At this point I don’t think the tomatoes or peppers will die for being planted out, but I do think you should expect a few weeks of shock as they adjust to having chilly feet.
My tomatoes are in their final location, growing in 4-gallon self-watering buckets, covered with a make-shift 6-foot tall greenhouse (scrap lumber, scrap 4-mil plastic and a bunch of large binder clips to hold it all together). I think they are doing ok. Peppers are still in their 1-gallon pots in the greenhouse, waiting for balmier conditions outside. At this point, I think they will likely stay in the greenhouse.
How’s your June (!) garden growing?