Vegetables – It’s Not Too Late

Phil Peters
Adam's County Master Gardener Program

Even the White House is affected by the vegetable gardening excitement that is sweeping America. Growing your own vegetables not only gives you a chance to eat something you can’t buy in the market, but it connects you with the soil and imparts a feeling of self-sufficiency that is fundamentally gratifying. Fortunately it is not too late to start growing vegetables for this year.

The best advice for the beginning gardener is to start small, choose plants that are easy to grow and get used to what is required to grow the kind of vegetables you want. Starting later in the growing season, you will do best to purchase already started plants from a garden supply center. Ask for plants that have a short days-to-maturity term so you can get produce this year.

While we automatically think of the traditional vegetable garden as a rectangular plot of cultivated soil, do not despair if you don’t have a large property. You can get going with some containers of adequate size and the balcony on your apartment. In fact, beginning with a few plants in containers is not a bad way to get into the hobby; you will be able to focus on the plants and what they need and won’t be tempted to overextend yourself by planting a row of everything on the seed rack.

For starters locate a nice sunny place for your garden. A sunny patio or deck will do for container plants. If your plot is in the yard, remove the sod and turn the ground over. Rake out the stones and smooth the soil. Don’t start too big. It is better to have a small garden that is successful than one that is so large you get tired of maintaining it. Mark the rows and put in your plants. If you are using a container, choose a pot of sufficient size for the plant to grow to maturity. Make sure it has a drain hole. You can put a coffee filter over the hole to keep the soil in. Set the pot in a tray so water does not run onto your deck or patio and fill the container with a good quality garden soil mix, available at any garden center.

It is not too late to plant some vegetables from seed with the goal of harvesting vegetables in the fall. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflowers, beets, carrots, lettuce and spinach can be planted in midsummer. Look for varieties that are suitable for mid to late summer planting. Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower produce better quality heads when the weather turns colder. Beets may also be put in until mid-July. You can plant varieties that need up to 10 weeks until first frost (mid-October). Radishes and Swiss chard and lettuce are quick to mature (5 weeks) and can be started in late August. A fall spinach can be planted in August or September. Try varieties like ‘Teton,’ ‘Space,’ or ‘Spaulding.’ Brussels sprouts are ideal for late fall or early winter harvest since they benefit from the freezing temperatures.

Everybody’s favorite is the tomato. They are easy to grow, and you can find many varieties in the garden stores. Best of all they produce equally well in containers or in the garden. Buy the plants already started. Purchase varieties that are resistant to diseases. Small cherry tomatoes will give you a lot of bang for your buck. They produce lots of fruit and are not prone to fruit end rot.

Like tomatoes, pepper plants are suitable for container or garden plot. Purchase healthy plants, remove them from the starter pot, spread the roots and set them in the soil. Both tomatoes and peppers may be planted deep. Pinch off the first buds to make the plants fuller. Water in thoroughly and water regularly through the growing season. Varieties of chile (yes, chili is the dish) peppers rather than bell peppers will give the best results now. Look for rapid maturing varieties.

It is never too late to start an herb garden. Basil, chives, coriander and oregano and parsley or mint provide beautiful plants, pleasing aromas, and flavor. Plant them in containers, and they can be moved indoors when the weather turns cool.

There is a virtually endless supply of gardening books in the stores that cover every aspect of gardening. Check out Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening (Rodale Press). And don’t overlook the help that is on the internet. Here are some web sites that will help you get started:

  • Good introductory site with many useful links
  • A very useful site from North Carolina State University; thorough and full of many useful charts.
  • This site has a lot of specific data on how to plant containers with vegetables and which ones do well in containers.
  • This is a great site for tomato growers; lots of info on varieties and how to plant them
  • This site has everything you need to know and then some.

Happy Gardening!

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