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Our Backyard Gardens—Never Too Far Behind

By Amy Halsted

A May 29 Facebook post on Backyard Gardening Maine (BGM) is the inspiration for this column. "What can I plant from seed right now or in the next few weeks? I feel so behind and not sure if I’m too late.”

With the shortness of our growing season mitigated by the strength of the summer sun, seeds started indoors and transplanted are often quickly matched by seeds directly sown into the Earth, even in June. This is true for perennials, pollinators, and vegetables.

For the backyard vegetable farmer, in the early summer when the soil has warmed, cucumber, melon, okra, pumpkin, squash, and winter potato seeds are all candidates for June planting. Late June to early July is also a wonderful time for starting seeds for fall brassicas (Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower) and to think of continuous vegetables from now through October (beans, beets, carrots, lettuces, and radishes).

In mid-July, start arugula, bush beans, beets, carrots, leaf and head lettuce, herbs, peas, radishes, spinach, turnips, and bunching onions for both fall and next spring’s harvests.

Turning to trees, shrubs, and flowers, consider starting a Maine native plant garden this month. From birches, cherries, and firs to Pagoda dogwood, trees are matched by a wide variety of native shrubs: blueberry, elderberry, hobblebush, juniper, laurel, northern bayberry, serviceberries, and viburnums. Watch for plant sales starting in mid-July. In general, trees and shrubs can be planted safely until early August. This gives the plants enough time to establish roots before the weather turns cold.

Essential for birds and pollinators, Maine native plants provide food and habitat. Consider adding asters, baneberry, campanula, columbine, Joe-pye weed, milkweed (a must for Monarch rearing), turtleheads, violets, and wild oats.

Perennials and pollinator plants are primetime this month. Nurseries, plant sales, and friends’ gardens abound with more mature plants that yield instant gratification. Good candidates for northwestern Maine include astilbe, echinacea, hydrangeas, rudbeckia, star magnolia, spireas, and yews. And, so much more.

When early spring finds you looking for little green things poking up through late winter snow while readying trays and soils for the mad dash to get those indoor seeds started and the outdoor beds mulched by May, June is the time for relaxed planting. It is most definitely not too late to nurture this year’s seeds and harvest and next year’s cornucopia of blooms and edibles.


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