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June gardeners are just in time


Early summer is the perfect time to plant a variety of crops

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Polly Gottesman and her Labrador retriever, Jasper, work together at Pumpkin Ridge Gardens in North Plains.“I’m really late starting my garden,” a farmers’ market customer said to me this week as she bought vegetable starters.

On our subscription farm, Pumpkin Ridge Gardens in North Plains, we grow and deliver vegetables year-round. I have been seeding vegetables madly since February so we would have food for our 180 families this spring. However, my customer’s comment made me think about how important it is to keep planting throughout the summer and that it is never “too late” to start gardening.

Many summer crops actually do better when planted in June rather than in May. An early start may not pay off if the plants sit in the garden suffering cold nights and the ravages of slugs and diseases. Basil and cucumbers definitely fit in this category and I don’t set either outside until June. Peppers and eggplants are also heat-loving crops that prefer to be transplanted into the warmer soil of June.

Tomatoes and summer squash transplanted in June will usually catch up to their May-planted brethren. In fact, summer squashes and zucchinis can be seeded as late as July, either to give strong new plants for the end of summer or to make up for a late start.

June is also a good month to transplant winter squashes, such as butternut, delicata, acorn and spaghetti squashes. With its cold nights, Western Oregon requires fairly short-season winter squash varieties. Most appropriate types mature in 100 days or less from transplant — butternut squash is one of the longest to mature — and harvest of these storage squash usually doesn’t happen until the beginning of October, so June planting leaves time for the squash to develop tough skins. Pumpkins are similar to winter squash.

Many crops should be seeded or transplanted throughout the summer. June is a good month to seed lettuce, because earlier seedings or transplants will start getting bitter as the days heat up. Summer lettuce will reach full size faster than spring lettuce, but seeding a few every two or three weeks will ensure fresh salads all summer long. Carrots and beets can be seeded regularly throughout the summer. They take a long time to reach full size, but they can stay in the ground through the winter once they are full size.

Beans, especially bush beans, are quick from seed to harvest. Seeding them any time in June will mean good harvests of beans well before the end of summer.

Snap peas, however, don’t like the heat of summer. If you have not seeded them yet, skip them. Snow peas, which are more tolerant of heat, are a better choice in June. If you cannot wait to seed snap peas until next February or March, you can try a fall seeding. I have not had luck with this, but in theory an August seeding should allow a fall crop of peas.

Many crops have two distinct seasons. Spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and mustard greens do well in the spring and again in the fall. June is a good month to seed broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower (members of the Brassica family) for fall harvest. Late June is the time to seed overwintering broccoli, also known as purple sprouting broccoli, and overwintering cauliflower. Seeds for these crops are available from local seed companies like Territorial Seeds.

Like writing, which benefits from editing and revisions, gardening is often about revisiting crops again and again throughout the growing season. June is not too late to start a garden. For those who started early and are now seeing the inevitable gaps that slugs and cold soil have left in their garden beds, it is not too late to reseed and fill in those holes.

Polly Gottesman runs Pumpkin Ridge Gardens, a year-round CSA, with her husband, James Just. They have had leeks growing continuously, either in the greenhouse or in the ground, since 1990. Gottesman teaches classes on year-round gardening at Portland Nursery and in North Plains. She sells vegetable starts at the Beaverton Farmers’ Market and can be consulted there on Saturdays 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. until Nov. 22. Learn more about their farm at pumpkinridgegardens.com.