By Mickey Scullard, Master Gardener
Now it’s June and for many reasons, you don’t have your garden planted. Is it too late? The resounding and reassuring answer is – No! And the answer is also – it depends. There are many vegetables and flowers that you can plant in June and still get a good harvest. However, there are a few plants that need a long growing season and planting in June might not provide sufficient time for flowers or vegetables to mature.
This year, we’ve had a cool, wet spring and many of the perennials (plants that grow back every year) are ‘behind schedule,’ emerging or blooming at least a couple of weeks late. This suggests we already have a delayed planting season and even gardens planted early might be growing slowly or may even need to be replanted if the seeds rotted in the wet soil or tiny plants experienced a frost or freeze.
How do you know what you can plant? There are some key items to look at – read the back of the seed packages, if you are sowing seeds, or tags inserted into plants you purchase. The back of the seed package tells you when it is best to plant the seeds, how long before the seed will germinate (when you can expect to see green pushing up out of the ground), and how long to harvest if the seed is going to produce vegetables. If the seed package says 90 days until harvest, you can plant it, but you might not get to pick anything unless we have a long, warm fall. In the picture, you can see Turnips have an estimated 45 days to harvest, so that would work but Parsnips are harvested 95 days after sowing. Even in a good growing year, Parsnips might be a gamble.
If the package says the vegetable is a cool season crop, like peas, lettuce, or spinach, you might want to wait until late summer to plant as we are (usually) heading into our hottest growing time in late June, July, and August. You may have missed the spring season harvest, but you have an opportunity to enjoy the vegetable in the Fall. For more information on planting for fall harvest, see the Mid-Summer Planting Guide on the University of Minnesota Extension website. It also has excellent online resources and a handy “at a glance chart” on when to plant: Planting and Growing Guides
If you were not able to start seeds yourself for plants needing more growing time than we have in a Minnesota summer, you could consider buying plants from garden centers or nurseries. This will increase your chances of planting late but still successfully growing longer season plants.
Flowers don’t have the same timescale on their packages, but you can gather some hints from how the package describes planting. For example, if the package directs you to start the seed inside several weeks before outdoor planting, this may be a flower that needs a longer season than we have in Minnesota. This is not a hard and fast rule, however, as Zinnia packages suggest starting seeds indoors a few weeks before planting. You can successfully direct seed Zinnias – and many other flower seeds – through late June – early July. Just a word of caution: perennials can be sold in seed packets, but will take several years to reach maturity and bloom. To learn whether the flower you want to grow is an annual or perennial, and more information about many types of flowers and flower landscapes, e.g., pollinator gardens, you can refer to – UMN Extension Flowers
In the end, especially with seeds, it never hurts to try. One year, I planted sunflowers, cosmos, and zinnias on the Fourth of July – all by seed – and by mid-August, had a pollinator’s paradise and riots of color to enjoy from my deck until Fall. Planting in June is very doable and, while you might have to watch neighbors and friends enjoying their garden harvest while you wait, you will be able to eat your own home-grown vegetables – just a little later.