By Glynis Ward
For many this was the spring that got away from us! So early, long, lovely, and wet: but it ended earlier and more abruptly than we are used to. If you didn’t get the chance to plant a vegetable garden, there is good news! You still have time to plant! Make sure your bed is very well amended with compost yet well draining (just in case we get some rain!!). You need good soil to hold water but not enough water to be waterlogged. Have some mulching materials on hand so that you can mulch well directly after planting and watering your new plants in. Mulch helps stop evaporation, keeps root zones cool, and stops any rain from “back splashing” on plants – which in heat can burn and even spread disease.
Seeds are still available at many stores including hardware stores, Farmer D’s Organics, and some big box stores. Don’t forget there is always online ordering for seeds. Plants are getting scarcer but Lowes, Holy Comforter, and Oakhurst Gardens all have some heat-tolerant plants for sale at this time. Look for cherry tomatoes, eggplant and sweet or hot peppers and think about planting your sweet pepper in the shade of your tomato to beat the heat. When shopping for seeds, think about bush or pole beans, bush or pole limas, okra, cow-peas (like black-eyed peas and yard-long beans), basil, and malabar spinach (hot weather, vining annual with edible leaves and flowers). To see if your crop will mature before late October frosts, look at the date of maturity for each crop. You will be looking for crops that have shorter maturity dates. Count the number of days and see if you can reasonably expect to begin harvesting by early October.
When you plant your crops, consider your water source and methods. With such a dry year, I’ve been planting ollas in my garden between the vegetables. Ollas are unglazed terracotta vessels that emit water through their pores very slowly when the soil is dry. Since they are not available commercially locally, I make mine from flowerpots. A four-inch pot, some plain mortar, a glass half-round marble, and the pot saucer are all you need. I mortar the marble in the pot’s hole and let it cure a few days. Then I bury this pot to its top rim beside the plant. The saucer becomes the lid. Fill with water, and let it “drip.”
The last several years I have continued planting into early July with great success. My late tomatoes do not always mature on the vine; however, last year I was able to pick them all before the first frost.
Stored between sheets of newspaper in a cool dark space we ended up eating homegrown tomatoes right up to Christmas. If you can’t manage to find the time to squeeze in some planting, still keep preparing and mulching those beds. It won’t be long before you can start your plants for your fall garden!