Practicing patience with your vegetable gardens

Photo by Michael on

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While many of the states to our South boast with photos on social media showing the beautiful essences of Spring; flowers blooming and blue bird skies, we patiently wait for Spring to come here in Maine until what usually feels like June. In fact, I think us “Mainers” completely skip the alleged season called Spring and simply jump into Summer when it hits in June. Though we do experience the scientific phenomenon of the Spring Equinox at the same time as the rest of the nation, Maine’s rain filled clouds and cool temperatures fight the Spring sun leaving us with our umbrellas up and winter jackets on until Summer.

I’m not complaining, I’m just staring the facts here. And it’s because of this weird phenomenon, we must patiently wait to start our vegetable gardens.

With the occasional rare day of warmth and blue skies in April and in May, that certain window of opportunity opens up allowing us green thumbs to dive into our gardens to start preparing them for the season ahead. In the heat of the moment [no pun intended], garden beds get their Winter blankets taken off and hopeless seedlings go into the ground and then, whack. One last snow storm, and another night with temperatures dipping below the 30’s. It’s not necessarily going to kill what you started but it will certainly leave you feeling frustrated.

As an eager gardener myself, I’ve learned to wait it out and not get too entirely excited about getting anything going until the end of May in my gardens. Truth be told, it will all end up growing and flourishing sometime during the Summer anyways, it might just come a little later than the norm… but that’s what we’re used to right?

Before I get into what to plant when, I just want to do a quick Maine Gardening 101– Maine has a few different USDA Hardiness Zones which are basically determined by expected first and last frost dates. Coastal and Southern Maine fall into Hardiness Zone 5, Central Maine falls into Hardiness Zone 4 and Northern Maine falls into Hardiness Zone 3. As a coastal Maine resident, I will specifically focus on Zone 5 but a quick way to determine planting dates in Central or Northern Maine is simply to add about 10 days for Central and add 20 days for Northern. Though some of these determined zones can be forgiving, I wouldn’t take too many risks.

So, for those of you who are entirely too excited about getting your garden beds cleared and ready [and as long as you’re willing to let your fingers freeze in the cold soil], here are a few hardy seeds you can get started as soon as the soil can be worked. For most of us, this is usually around early to mid April.

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Onions
  • Shallots
Photo by . u2583 on

Once you gain feeling back in your fingers from getting those seeds in the ground, it’s time to get the rest of your veggies going inside! Though I’m now a cheater at this step and buy my seedlings at the local greenhouse [time saving tactic for a busy mom], the vegetables below can be started indoors in early April and transplanted outside at the end of May or beginning of June. The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association has a great calendar if you have any further questions on starting your seedlings indoors.

  • Pole Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Cucumbers
  • Peppers
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes

While many of us eagerly await for that window of opportunity to get those gardens going, it’s okay to sit back and relax too. Whether you want to pick away at getting your seedlings started indoors or just wait until June to buy everything at the greenhouse, that’s okay too. Patience is something all gardeners need to practice [plants don’t grow overnight] so make sure you’re not jumping into your garden beds to early in the Spring because it can cause heartbreak if you do it too soon!