In places with four relatively distinct seasons, most people treat gardening as a warm-weather pastime that creates beauty around the home and abundance on the table. And with Mother’s Day in the rearview mirror, now’s the time to start if you haven’t already.
Avid gardeners have been planning for months, cultivating seeds indoors, prepping their tools and so on. But those who are late to the game can still get plants into the ground and experience satisfaction of growing their own flowers and vegetables.
The first step is to know your location’s plant hardiness zone at USDA’s site. This will help you determine the optimal times to plant, as well as inform any decisions on about which trees, flowers and crops grow best in your area.
Pretty much everything is fair game for planting at this point in the season, though gardeners in the northernmost reaches of the country — Zones 3 and 4 — may need to wait until the end of the month to allow the soil to warm sufficiently and protect against a final frost.
Early-season crops such as radishes, spinach, onions, lettuce, cabbage, beets, peas and carrots can go in immediately. Depending on location, seedling tomatoes, squash, eggplant, peppers, sweet corn, cucumbers, potatoes, and herbs can be transplanted.
Continue planting warm-weather crops such as flowers and vegetables into June. Once seedlings are established, mulch to keep weeds at bay. Have stakes, cages or trellises ready for plants that climb or weigh themselves down with fruit, like tomatoes.
From here on out, maintenance is the name of the game. Keep your plants watered and fed with compost; weed if necessary. Deadhead annual flowers to keep them blooming. When vegetables mature, harvest in the early morning or evening when plants are least stressed.
Any foods you grow yourself will be healthier and more flavorful than what you buy in the store; they may even spur you to try a new recipe. And those flowers and shrubs will beautify your place and enhance your mood. Enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor!