When April fifteenth rolls around we scramble to get plants in the ground and into production, before the temperature tops 100 degrees in early July. This year we jumped the gun and suffered three freezes already, and expect another this weekend!
To save the plants we put old bed frames in the garden and covered them with sturdy tarps, weighted down by bricks. When the low was 25 degrees we put a small space heater under the thinner of the two tarps. The heater prevents snow collection on the thin tarp and radiates warmth through the tunnel created by the bed frames and heavy army tarp, thus saving the seedlings from a 25 degree freeze. (It worked! We were pleasantly surprised.) But the whole reason we’re in this mess, is to try and lengthen our 90 day growing season.
The 90 day growing season is demanding so we’ve compiled a list of vegetables that can grown from seed to food in 90 days or less. Count back from the first 100 degree day in your area, and you will know the last applicable day to plant each seed variety in the outdoor garden.
- Cress 10 days
- Watercress 14 days
- Green onions 20 days, harvest as needed
- Radish 25 days
- Collard greens 40 days
- Spinach 42+ days for leaves, 70 days for bunches
- Leaf Lettuce 46 days
- Potatoes 50 days
- Swiss Chard 50 days
- Squash (Summer, Straight- and Crookneck, Zucchini) 50 days
- Bush Beans 56 days
- Beets 60 days
- Cucumbers 60 days
- Pole Beans 63 days
- Peas 65 days
- Hull Beans 67 days
- Corn 75-95 days depending on subspecies
- Chinese Cabbage 85 days
- Endive anytime up to 90 days
- Peppers – edible at all stages, 90-110 days for ripe
Tomatoes and Okra are tricky picky vegetables unless you live in a humid subtropical environment. Tomatoes do not like temperatures above 85 degrees. They will not set flowers, nor will they color-ripen outside, but if the fruit breaks off the stem when lifting gently, take the fruit in the house and let it color-ripen on the counter. Okra seeds will not sprout until the soil temperature is consistently at or above 70 degrees. They are a shrinking violet of vegetable seedlings. We’re trying them anyway. Hopefully our humidity will be high enough to make the okra happy.
Temperatures fluctuate wildly in our neck of the woods, so we may reach daytime highs of 85 degrees before the end of April, and not maintain a 70 degree soil temperature until mid-May (because of nighttime lows). With ideal conditions, the tomatoes are good to harvest in 56 days, and okra in 60 days.
Some years we have great crops and other years, not so much. Such is the nature of a vegetable garden.