If you’re dreaming of planting a garden to keep you company in lockdown, you are not alone. Demand is high. Seed companies are backlogged and experiencing shipping delays thanks to people panic-buying seeds because of the coronavirus pandemic. But you still have time to buy seeds for a summer harvest.
If you’re new to gardening, don’t be intimidated by the process. Texas-based gardener Timothy Hammond of Big City Gardener said his mantra is to “just grow it.”
“I think gardening is more than just what I get back from the garden in terms of food,” he said. “To me, it’s just a way for everybody to find their happy place, relax.”
He’s right: Planting a small seed and watching it grow can be a much-needed relaxing activity. People who garden have lower stress levels than others, according to a 2010 study in the Journal of Health Psychology.
The main thing to understand is that your climate and sun exposure dictates what to plant now and how long it will take for you to harvest by summer.
“The sun is like our boss in gardening, because the sun provides heat and light,” said George Ball, chairman and owner of the Burpee Seed Company. “If you’re in the northern half of the country, you’re great. If you were in the southern half of the country, you were great two months ago... But in the southern half, you also have a much longer summer. I’m not saying you’re late, you’re just late for your first crop of whatever you wanted.”
Here are some summer vegetable options to get you started quickly:
“I’m not able to plant any leafy greens right now,” said Hammond, who lives in Houston. “I have to wait until the fall.” If you live in a similarly warm climate, Hammond recommends planting okra.
If you plant now, “you would start harvesting okra at the end of June, early July, and then you would be harvesting every day,” he said.
Because okra thrives in warm weather, the Farmer’s Almanac recommends planting okra in the garden “when the soil has warmed to about 65 or 70 F —the warmer, the better.”
2. Little Gem Lettuce
Lettuces can be sensitive to high temperatures, and some are more heat-tolerant than others. Little Gem, which is also known as Sucrine or Sugar Cos, is one of the more heat-tolerant varieties.
“Lettuces vary a great deal,” Ball said. “You have lettuces that pop up in 45 days. There are a lot of them. Little Gem is a real nice snappy one.”
If you’re growing lettuce, be thoughtful about how much sun yours will be getting. As the University of California’s Master Gardener school notes, “If grown in the summer, it’s recommended to plant where it will get shade from other crops or trees and to select temperature tolerant, slow-bolting varieties. It’s a shallow-rooted plant which requires frequent watering when there’s no rain.”
Ball said peas can take 60-70 days from planting to harvest depending on the type you buy.
“If you planted a pea now, you’re going to be harvesting your peas in early July, easily,” he said. “Your edible podded [pea], they’re super early. They’re about 55 days.”
Ball recommends radishes for novice gardeners because they grow quickly and taste better than store-bought radishes.
From planting the seeds to harvest, it will take 40-45 days. “They’re real fast,” he said. “You’ve left them in the ground long enough that they have the chance to match the sort of piquant, some would say, bitterness or sharpness ― that’s matched with some sugar as well. The effect of the homegrown radish is like, ‘Wow, this is tasty.’”
5. Green Beans
Hammond noted that if you want a vegetable you can harvest quickly, there are green bean varieties that take as little as 45 to 60 days. But since green beans prefer warm weather, you need to plant the seeds when the soil is warm.
As the University of Minnesota Extension’s guide to growing notes, “Bean seed planted in cold soil may rot rather than germinate, and plant growth will be very slow in cooler weather,” they advise. “Some gardeners plant bush beans in succession, every two weeks until early August, for production throughout the summer and into fall.”
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