Don’t Stress Just Because It’s Memorial Day Weekend!

Writing the headline above was just as much for me as it is for you, Dear reader. Traditionally, Memorial Day weekend is the high water mark for having all our gardens in and ready to grow for the season. Then we just get to sit back on our porches and enjoy the sights that unfold before us… right? Well, not for this gardener and I suspect many, many others as well. I’ve shared before here and am constantly trying to remind myself… we garden for enjoyment. Loving the beauty of our landscapes, the productivity of our vegetable gardens… merely loving the therapeutic benefits of working in the dirt, under the sun. So what if I haven’t got my foundation gardens cleaned up and re-mulched yet, right? Yeah, my main perennial garden I call the boulder garden is already needing another thorough round of weeding. I’d put it off just to make sure I didn’t misidentify a perennial for a weed. Well, now the weeds really are apparent but I’ve still got vegetables to plant!

At this point in the season, I think it’s important to prioritize things. Before I get to weeding the boulder garden or doing the clean-out of my shade garden that’s still got plenty of last years’ oak leaves covering it, I better get to the vegetables. We have such a short growing season here in southern New Hampshire and there are many veggies that take a while to mature and produce. They’ve got that extra step beyond flowering that our flower gardens do not. They’ve got to have time to grow the vegetables we want to harvest and eat and that takes a certain number of weeks. Make cold crops a priority. That would be Brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli. Pumpkins also take the full season to mature as do watermelons and cantaloupe. Peas should be planted now as well as should green beans. They’ve got to sprout from seed unlike our tomatoes that we’ve already started indoors or bought at the garden center. Plus, peas don’t care for extreme heat so its best if you can harvest before August. Tomatoes ripen at different times throughout the season so it’s a good idea to save your tags or seed packets. My Dad always just pierced the seed packet with a stick and placed it at the head of the row.

I’m not a corn grower so I can’t really offer any advice other than the old adage that it should be knee-high by the Fourth of July! Greens are nice and flexible. You can actually plant, harvest and re-plant most greens such as lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard. Beets and carrots we typically grow from seed as well. If you can at least get the seed in the ground by the end of the holiday weekend, you’ll be thinning them by mid-June. That’ll be perfect.

So, what if you can’t get every vegetable planted by Memorial Day? Well, the sky’s not exactly going to fall in. Keep the easiest growing items last to plant. If it’s mid-June, your squash and zucchini will still do just fine. So will the tomatoes. Maybe just select the earlier ripening varieties such as Early Girl. If your tomato plants have gotten a tad leggy out there waiting for you, that’s no problem either. Bury them halfway up their stem. They’ll form even more roots from the stem underground and create a really strong plant. Heck, even if you haven’t planted your potatoes and it’s mid-June, just go ahead and get it done. You’ve already bought the seed potatoes and chances are, you’ll have a fine crop to harvest and store before the killing frosts arrive.

Just remember, this Memorial Day Weekend, we’re not performing brain surgery here in our yards and gardens. We’re doing something that makes us happy. In between tasks, take a 15 minute break to just sit in the sun and enjoy being outside, hearing the birds, admiring how everything is green again. Take a few deep breaths and relax. If it’s after 4, pour a nice glass of wine and just chill for a while.