Start of Summer Planting

Memorial Day signals the unofficial start of summer, including the beginning of the summer planting season. If you didn’t get your summer crops planted over the holiday weekend, there’s still plenty of time for you to plant.

“It’s pretty prime time for planting because it was pretty cold last week,” said The Organic Gardener Jeanne Nolan. 

While the summer planting season usually starts around May 15, Nolan said her company has delayed planting transplants until this week because it’s been too cold.

“We had lows in the 40s and that’s too low for transplants,” she said. “We don’t like that for planting tomatoes, peppers, basil, and things like that.”

“They can go all the way to above a frost, but it really stresses the plants out and retards their growth. It’s not good for them. It’s not healthy for them, so we like to wait to plant transplants until overnight lows are in the 50s consistently. And we really just got there.”

Since May has been unusually cold, Nolan said people can continue their summer planting till mid-June.

“I’ve planted tomatoes, basil, and eggplants all the way up to June 20 successfully if I get mature plants at a nursery that are bigger,” she added.

When choosing transplants, Nolan emphasized choosing healthy, local crops.

“The most important thing is plants should look healthy. They shouldn’t be yellow and sickly. You want to buy plants that look strong from the start,” she said. “Whoever grows and sells locally grown plants have chosen varieties that are well suited to our climate and growing season. Imagine growing plants in Florida or California—they have totally different growing seasons than us. And also, you’re supporting the local farmers by choosing local, and we know our small farmers struggle because the economy is not tilted in their favor.”

Crops being planted as transplants now include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and squash which can also be planted from seed. As for choosing seeds, Nolan recommended selecting certified organic seeds. Crops being planted from seed now include beans, herbs, and squash like zucchini and butternut squash.

As you get ready to plant, Nolan suggests thinking about which plants you will grow.

“It’s a good time to think about what plants you’ll grow vertically that will need vertical support,” she said. “The plants that really save space and increase productivity in a small garden include tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, and sugar snap peas.”

When choosing a day to plant, Nolan recommends avoiding hot, sunny days.

“The ideal time of day to transplant plants and put them in the ground is either in the morning or in the evening, because inevitably when we transplant the plant goes into some degree of transplant shock,” she said. “And that shock or stress is much less if the sun isn’t baking down on a garden… On the other hand, we’re outside transplanting all day long because we don’t have a choice.”

If your chosen planting day turns out to be sunny and hot, just add water.

“I would water plants very well before you put them in the ground in the containers they come in,” she said. “After you plant them [in your garden] give them a good watering again. We like to water plants with a nutrient drink—we use a concentrate of fish emulsion and seaweed called Neptune’s Harvest.”

Another tip when planting: don’t overplant.

“Bottom line is everybody plants a garden too crowded. It’s really important to have a sense of how large crops are going to grow so you space them properly,” Nolan said. “We like to label plants. We find it helpful to have a date on there and the type of crop we put in the ground because people get confused and don’t know what was planted there.”