Summer Vegetable Growing Season
Getting Started on a Summer Garden — in Winter
With the dead of winter upon us, the hot vegetable growing season seems so far away. Believe it or not, your nose will soon be running with the spring pollen and your shirt will be wet with the summer heat. Yes, I am speaking of the not-so-great parts of summer.
Although I prefer winter, one of the great things about summer is the garden and all it produces. I dream of that first juicy vine ripened tomato and cool sweet watermelon.
So, when do I start planting the highlight of my summer, the garden? Just as the plum blooms before the oak, your vegetables and herbs are going to have specific sprouting times and requirements.
Like me, I am sure that you do not have time for setting aside many different planting dates. I have obtained great results with setting apart only a few days to plant. Here’s how I do it.
- 6 weeks before last frost date. Plant the “nightshades,” tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant in flats. I also sow herbs such as basil, parsley, sage, thyme, summer savory, sweet marjoram, and chives to get a head start. Now is the time to get your garden tested.
- 2 weeks before last frost date. Transfer my vegetables to larger containers. Seed carrots and additional thyme directly in garden. If the soil is workable (crumbles when rolled into a ball and pressed with your finger) in the garden, this is a good time to amend it.
- 2 weeks after last frost date. If the soil is workable, transplant plants in containers to garden. Seed other vegetables, cucumber, squash, pumpkin, watermelon, melon, corn, beans, and peas and the herbs such as cilantro, dill, oregano, and borage. The reason for sowing these plants directly in the ground is that they do not transplant as well. Don’t hesitate to sow more of what you planted in containers if you wish. Plant another batch of tomatoes for late season harvest. The ground should be a consistent 70 degrees for most of the plants to germinate correctly. Before I plant, I check the forecast to ensure the week ahead will be warm. It is the average last frost that we are going by; there can be freak cold spurts every decade or two. If the weather has been cold, don’t hesitate to wait a week.
- 4 weeks after last frost date. Sow the okra. It also would be prudent to seed another batch of squash, cucumbers, and beans, for they tend to quickly peak in their fruiting cycle.
Sample Planting Calendar for Zone 8
This is a sample of the average last frost date of March 15th for planting zone 8 (Central Alabama). Find your zone here. Then go ahead and mark your calendar and buy your seeds.
- Feb. 1: Basil, parsley, sage, thyme, summer savory, sweet marjoram, chives, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant in flat trays or containers.
- March 1: Sow carrots and thyme directly in ground.
- April 1: Sow cilantro, parley, dill, oregano, borage, chives, cucumbers, beans, peas, watermelons, melon, squash, pumpkin, and corn in garden. Wait a couple more weeks to plant your okra.
Well, there it is! A day to plant all of your vegetables and herbs, set up on just 4 different days.
Sure, you’ll be in the garden a lot more than that, having war with bugs and disease and pulling weeds, all under that hot summer sun. But oh, how it will all be worth it when you get that first large ripe tomato for that first tomato sandwich!
Thank you for this simple breakdown. I’m looking forward to planting my first small garden this year and this really helps.
You are very welcome!! Ask any questions as you go. I love helping anyone starting out! You are going to love it and it gets better every year.
Question…my garden spot I used last year has very black soil and did wonderfully but I want to expand my garden this year and I’ve notice the surrounding soil isn’t as dark. Should I take samples from both soils and send for testing? OH and have you ever had a problem with “stink” bugs invading your squash? My dad’s get overthrown every year.
Glad your garden worked out last year. You just can’t beat that good dark top soil! Typically, just one soil sample should suffice for up to a couple of acres of garden. Be sure to get plenty of samples from different points of the area you plan to plant.
Yes, last year we had a whole crop of “stink” bugs, squash borers, tear in to our crookneck and zucchini. Planting at different times can help to ensure at least one good crop. Also try to cover up sections of the vine with dirt as it grows. This will make the squash root in several sections and make it more resistant to the borers whose larva feed on the base of the plant. A spray-on pesticides may work, but you will have to act quick, for once the plant shows the first sign damage the borers have already killed the vine. I hope this helped you. Feel free to ask any other questions you have. Thanks!
What pesticide do you recommend using? Thanks!
I use Liquid Sevin Dust. This is a pesticide and it is not organic, but I would rather have food than nothing. Bores are terrible around here. The dust will not do because it will not distribute evenly around the roots. I have tried the organic oils with no success. I will continue to experiment with my own organic concoctions and will let you know if there are any successes.