Is it too late to start a garden?
The answer is usually no, it’s not too late!
Generally speaking, April and May are the best time to start a vegetable garden. But if you’ve missed that deadline, there are several ways to extend your planting window. Here are some options to consider depending on where you live, what you’re planting, and what kind of work you want to do.
- Days to Maturity
- Days to maturity is the number of days a plant needs to grow from seed to harvest. Check the seed details (usually on the packet) for the maturation date. Most vegetables have a maturation date of 50 to 75 days.
- Frost Schedule
- Once you’ve figured out the days to maturity, you’ll need to find the first frost dates for your zone. You can find what you need at these links:
- Count backward from the freeze date to ensure your plants have adequate time to grow to maturity.
- Plant Varieties
- There are plenty of vegetables you can plant in the summer. Some vegetables with shorter maturations dates are radishes, onions, most varieties of lettuce, beets, and spinach.
- Another option is to find transplants, vegetables that were planted earlier in the season, that you can plant in your own garden. It’s possible to transplant crops such as tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, and zucchini right up until the end of June.
- Season Extenders
- If you’ve exhausted all of those resources, and you’ve missed the window of maturity opportunity, you can try the next step of extending the growing season. Season extenders, which can prolong the life of your garden, are covers that protect plants from frost damage while allowing sun, moisture, and air to pass through. These covers are fairly inexpensive and can be reused from year to year.
- Cold frames and low tunnels (basically, mini-greenhouses) are the next step. They insulate and protect plants from harsh weather. Homemade versions are fairly easy to construct.
Believe it or not, there are actually some advantages to starting a garden later in the year. If you’re looking for transplants, late June is when most nurseries begin to liquidate their inventory so you might be able to find some good deals. You will also avoid most of the summer heat and major pests that come with it, and late summer and fall generally have the most pleasant weather to garden in.
Whatever you decide to do, we wish you all the gardening success! Happy planting!