Time to plant veggie seeds

Now’s a great time to plant vegetable seeds.

What? Didn’t we do that in March, April, and May?

Well, yes, our spring seed-sowing frenzy made us feel great, and we’re eating the veggies we sowed then. Our little cool-weather veggie patch has given us carrots, beets, chard, and three varieties of lettuce. I’ll pick a handful of green beans this weekend.

But the sizzling weather of July and August will rapidly take its toll on cool-weather vegetables planted in the spring. Now that we’ve passed the summer solstice and days are beginning to shorten, it’s time to start thinking of the cooler nights that will come in August and the great veggie-growing days of September, October, and November.

I’ll confess that I think fall veggies are the most flavorful of the year. Many veggies that struggle and then go to seed in summer heat grow vigorously as the days gradually cool into fall.

If you haven’t planted fall vegetables in the past, I suggest you check the University of Maryland Extension’s free flier, “Planting Dates for Vegetable Crops in Maryland.” I’ll add a link at the end of this posting so you can read it or save or print a copy.

The “Planting Dates” publication lists more than 50 vegetables and their spring and fall planting dates for Central Maryland. Note that many can be planted through August and some even into September.  A footnote explains that you should “advance or delay planting dates … for other areas of the state.”

I planted seeds for six veggies on Wednesday: Goldtender summer squash (Burpee), Plato hybrid zucchini (Johnny’s), Diva cucumber (Johnny’s), Cylindra beet (Burpee), Short ‘n Sweet carrot (Burpee), and Tenderpod green beans (Burpee).

This was my first planting of the two squash varieties. I usually wait until late June to plant squash seeds so I don’t have to worry about squash borers killing the plants. The borers are the larvae of a moth that ends its major breeding cycle in early to mid-June. My squash seeds can now sprout and grow without great danger that the borers will attack.

The “Planting Dates” flier gives these dates for the other veggies I planted: snap beans, July 1 to August 5; beets, June 20 to August 1; carrots, June 15 to Aug. 1, cucumbers, June 15 to July 10; and summer squash, June 1 to July 15.

I was two days early for the beans and right on schedule for the rest. And if space frees up, I can plant a third crop later in July or early August for some of the vegetables. In fact I’ll wait until late July or August to plant late crops that will grow well into the frosty weather of late October and November—lettuces, chard, carrots, and beets.

The forecast for the Fourth of July holiday weekend calls for sizzling weather. But think beyond the heat of summer to the increasingly cool days of late-summer and fall when the vegetables you plant during the next six weeks will thrive.

To see the University of Maryland Extension’s “Planting Dates” list, CLICK HERE.

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