I get asked the following question a lot, “Is it too late to plant my own garden? When will it be too late?”
Around here, the first killing frost is supposed to be around October 15th. However, in the past few years, the first killing frost has actually been in November! Actually, we were still eating FRESH tomatoes and peppers in December last year! It may not be that way every year, so it is best to plan from October 15th or whatever the first frost date is for your area. You can find the average frost dates for your area here.
Then, you can decide what you want to plant which is NOT frost hardy and count back from the first frost date the number of days when the particular plant will be ready to harvest. I will give an example.
Let’s use yellow squash. We never got a chance to plant our squash and cucumbers. We ran out of room in our regular garden and my husband never had the time to till a new space for me to plant them. However, now that our broccoli and cauliflower are gone, I am going to plant some squash, cucumbers, and a few other things.
- Get your seed packet or plant tag. It is going to take longer to get a crop from seed. Many places have their vegetable plants marked half off or more now! I saw a sign for vegetables at Mayo’s the other day $0.99 each! You will just have to check your area.
- Now that you have your seed packet or plant tag, look for the “days to maturity” number. I have a seed packet which says ‘50-60 days’ under “days to maturity.”
- Count back from your first frost date the number of days to maturity. For my example it is 60 days. Counting backwards from October 15, which puts me back to August 16th. Therefore, August 16th is the LAST possible day I should plant my squash if I want to have squash before the frost kills it.
There are a few things to remember when planting later in the growing season.
- ALWAYS make sure you are keeping your plants well watered! Water is a limitation during the hottest part of the summer. Drip irrigation (soaker hoses) is great for large gardens. Small gardens or containers can use a regular water hose with a watering wand on the end.
- Remember the pests are very evasive during the hotter months! It is important to keep things weed free in order to prevent pests and diseases! It is also important to stop the pests before they get out of control and destroy your crops! Homemade pepper spray works great when sprayed on foliage to kill Japanese beetles and other common summer garden pests. Co-Op and Mayo’s have an extensive line of ORGANIC pesticides available. I also saw a few in Lowe’s the other day which means Home Depot and Wal-Mart probably have them too.
There are many other plants you can plant later as they are frost hardy! These plants include the cool season crops such as peas, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, radishes, etc.
A great resource for when to plant as well as how to start seeds and harvest seeds is Nancy Bubel’s book called “The New Seed Starter’s Handbook.” I love this book and highly recommend it to you!
The answer to the question, “Can I still grow my own food?” is “YES!”