Second plantings extend garden
It’s early to start despairing in the garden, but many of my gardening buddies were doing just that a few of weeks ago. Plants were just not growing fast enough for them, and while they were enjoying peas and lettuce, all they really wanted was tomatoes.
“What is wrong with my tomato plants,” one friend asked. “They don’t seem to be growing at all.”
They were growing, growing strong roots and strong stalks, leafing out and flowering. It’s not really time for red tomatoes yet.
But I understood the despair on the day I went through my garden, picking one leaf off each lettuce and spinach plant, adding some of the baby chard and kale, and then wild mint, oregano and some edible weeds — just so that we could have a real salad, a meal-sized salad, like it was really summer. Which, the calendar tells me, it is.
“The garden’s looking nice,” I told my daughter in New York City. “Looks kind of like May.”
But that was two weeks ago. Just as I assured my doubting friends, things are starting to catch up. The corn is growing so fast you can almost see it. The onion plants are finally starting to thicken up. I can’t say it looks like the end of June yet, but it’s certainly improving. And I am harvesting whole lettuces now instead of picking off leaves.
Which means it’s time for second plantings. Which also means that if you haven’t gotten around to planting a garden, you can still plant some vegetables, and still get a harvest. Even if you live in the way-far-up north, like me. There are plenty of short-season vegetables that you can plant from seed now and still harvest before frost.
We’re not close to picking beans yet, but we’re ready to put in our second planting. A row of green or yellow string beans planted now will mean we’ll still be harvesting in early September.
There’s also time for another planting of early cabbage — the short season variety — and another round of broccoli, cilantro, beets, carrots, radishes. Or a first round. There’s plenty of time to start spinach and lettuces, broccoli rabe and kale.
You can even put in potatoes now, and get nice, if smallish, new potatoes before frost. And a late potato planting has the added advantage of fooling the potato bugs, those nasty, ugly orange squishy larvae that eat the leaves as they grow up into nasty brown-and-yellow striped beetles.
We learned that the year we didn’t get around to planting our potatoes at the recommended time of mid-May. A Fourth of July planting yielded plenty before frost, and we didn’t have to spend time every day crushing potato bugs.
It’s too late to put in long-season crops — eggplant and peppers, for example. But you might find a greenhouse sale where you can still pick up a patio tomato growing in a big pot, in case you never got around to planting tomatoes. And garden centers and greenhouses are having sell-offs now, so you might pick up some already-started plants on the cheap.
I like this time of second plantings, because it lengthens the season. It means we can be bringing in fresh produces right up until frost.
And if frost comes early, before all the vegetables are ripe, we can always feed the plants to the animals.
Margaret Hartley is the Gazette’s Sunday and features editor. Greenpoint appears in the Gazette’s print edition Sundays on the Environment page.
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