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Apr 19, 2009 05:26 AM

What to plant in New England now?

I have a pretty small plot 5x20 and a few containers, with ny $20 seed order i usually have 7x as many seeds as i can use so i often throw a few seeds on the ground or in an odd container to see if they will take. Its Mid April and I dropped Parsley and lettuce mix in containers outside and threw a few peas in the ground too. Also trying to start a few grape tomatoes inside

Anyone have any reccomendations for what would grow well in RI as springs comes?
I usually get a few garden center tomatoe plants to complement parsley, basil, peas and lettuce that i can manage to bring up from seed

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  1. You can direct seed arugula, cilantro, radishes, beets, carrots. lettuces, and chives.

    See Johnny's Seeds homepage (they're in Maine)

    5 Replies
    1. re: NYchowcook

      I enjoy Crockett's Victory Garden because it has things to do and plant in the garden month by month. I think his show was on back in the late 70s and the garden was near Boston. This weekend (and what a gorgeous weekend) here in NH (just north of Concord) I planted sugar snap peas, onion and shallot sets, chard, beets, lettuce mix, spinach, braising greens from Johnny's, scallions (seed), and a short carrot variety. The ground was nice and dry. We still have very cold nights (my husband thought there was a frost last night). A lot of traditional gardeners around here don't plant anything before Memorial Day.
      I just finished digging the last of the parsnips which I always leave in the ground all winter. They were beginning to sprout.
      We now live in a place with plenty of sun so last year was my first vegetable garden in a lot of years. I got to the point where I was just growing some tomatoes in containers and whatever would fit in a small raised bed. Last year was very rainy and I heard complaints that people had poor zucchini crops and lost their tomatoes. You can have different growing conditions in different parts of the yard. Last year I grew wonderful cherry tomatoes and peppers on the south side of the house which is painted white. Tomatoes in the big garden didn't fare as well since I planted them to close and lost of lot to rot. I think my first summer squash seeds didn't germinate because the ground was too cold. I'm holding off on things like beans and summer squash until mid-May.
      There was a second version of the Victory Garden printed when there was a new host after Jim Crockett. There was also a Garden Way book published that was also organized by months. You can probably find them at used book stores.

      1. re: dfrostnh

        I live south of you DF - just north of Boston - and we don't put anything in the garden till Memorial Day. The exception is sno peas, sugar snaps and radishes, and if the weather at night stays above freezing, some lettuces. You're really pushing it.

        We're about 3 miles as the crow flies from the ocean (no water view, LOL) so we get the so-called east wind effect. We've had frost into the 2nd week of June some years. In '95 my garden was on the local garden tour and I rushed to get the garden to look as if I knew what I was doing.... a few tomatoes, and the usual kitchen garden veggies.... It's a good thing I didn't plant all the seeds I had started... much of what I planted early did not fare as well as when i waited till the soil had warmed up.

        Good Luck!

        1. re: Gio

          Thanks all, sounds like my plantings havea chance, but not a guarantee.
          Good thing I have plenty of seeds

          1. re: Gio

            Gio, you make a good point. Where we used to live was on top of a little hill surrounded by beech and oak trees. We never got frost until a couple of weeks after neighbors who lived in lower, open areas. But, my spring bulbs were always a couple of weeks later than my MIL's. We live in a hilly area so there are going to be different "climate conditions" even within a mile. There's a river that runs thru town and the people we know who garden in that low lying area get hit with frost earlier than everyone else. People do need to take a look at what weather conditions are like in their own yards. The zone is really too general. I planted spring bulbs next to our walkway last fall. The ones in the open yard are blooming now. The ones next to the walkway are just barely up. I can only surmise that the piles of shoveled snow kept that area colder, frozen longer. Good question to ask here - does anyone check the temperature of their soil or have a good way of guessing what it is?
            I will stand behind my earlier list ... for my yard. The back of the packets will say "can sow as early as the ground can be worked". I realize mid-April planting can be chancy - we've had April blizzards. I know some neighbors who have said that the warmer conditions by Memorial Day speed things up so their garden quickly catches up with those planted earlier. Last year I had terrific spinach, planted around April 27 instead of this year's April 18. Spinach is day length sensitive and needs to go in the ground as early as possible. Years ago I tried planting in the fall and letting it over-winter but can't recall if that trick worked. We put some black plastic on one of last year's beds after giving it a good weeding (awful creeping charlie/jenny type weed where we grew winter squash last year). I plan on planting that in two weeks so I should put in some leftover seed from a packet I sowed last weekend to see what happens and compare results. My typical garden mistake is planting too much at the same time.

            Another point - Last year's garden was in lasagna beds built of layers of fresh grass, old leaves with a bottom layer of wet newspapers on old sod in 2007. In spring, 2008, we topped the beds with composted horse manure mixed with shavings. Perhaps my garden was warmer due to ongoing decomposition. A neighbor with many years of experience said he couldn't grow zucchini last summer and I ended up giving some giants to another farming friend because they didn't get their usual production and wanted to make relish. (I know I shouldn't have let them get so big but darn it, some always managed to hide on me and weekly picking isn't frequent enough.)

            Gio, I'm glad you made me think more about this because now I'm even more convinced that a lasagna bed is a good idea. We started two new beds that got fresh from the barn steer manure last fall. The original beds did not get new layers of grass cuttings/leaves. Again, it will be interesting to compare how the different beds perform this year. The bed I planted last weekend got a little bit of the old manure. Bed #2 will get a better layer of composted manure.

            1. re: dfrostnh

              Good Morning DF....
              You sound like me: always thinking about what, when and how to plant the garden. I like your "lasagna" method of soil prep and believe that the decomposition of the various materials do indeed create a warmer environment for healthy and successful plant growth . My island garden is really a sunken garden in that it's on a lower level than the rest of the property ( 6 steps down), with the driveway retaining wall creating the height difference so I to have to consider low lying climate variations.

              You're so lucky to have animals to provide the manure.... I have to buy 3 year old composted manure from a local farm and sometimes I doubt it has actually been "cooked" long enough. But that and homemade compost make a wonderful growing medium. When my vegetable garden was active I mulched everything with salt marsh hay and in the Autumn used a top layer of fresh SM hay to protect the garden over winter. In the spring most of that was removed and what was left was lightly scratched into the soil between the rows.

      2. I think there are plenty of things that can comfortably go in the ground this early- I'm in Maine, and I'm definitely doing lettuce, spinach, greens, onions, root crops, etc. The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Assoc (the oldest and largest in the nation) has a nice calendar that gives a week-by-week list of what can go in. It is specialized for Maine and our last frost date, but should be fine for anyone in NE. You can find it here: They recommend broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, etc all before Memorial Day (though Gio has a point- warm weather crops, like eggplant, potatoes, peppers, vines, etc, don't like to go out until then). But you should be fine if you stick to cold-weather crops.

        1. So far I've got lettuce, carrots, spinach, and kohlrabi in the ground.

          The asparagus is sprouting already.

          Inside I've started basil, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, and parsley.

          1. You can plant almost anything in R.I. but you might have trouble with southern veggies like okra. Since its now May, it's about time to plant bush and pole beans.
            Tomatoes and peppers in another two weeks, summer squash when it gets warmer.
            Be sure to make small succession plantings of lettuce and the like every two weeks or so to give you a continuous harvest.

            1. Just a word of advice: for heat-loving plants, it's not the afternoon temps that matter but the dawn temperatures that matter most. I live 7 miles north of downtown Boston about 3 miles from the ocean, with my vegetable garden in a warmer microclimate than my backyard. I don't even bother planting my Japanese cucumber seeds until the week before Father's Day - June nighttime temps are typically too labile and cucumber seedlings get very unhappy with cool nights. I have lettuce and chard seeded, and most herbs (not basil, though) and will plant beans next. I may procure my tomato seedlings in advance of Memorial Day, but you get no advantage here from planting early. Basil, peppers and eggplant are like cucumbers in terms of being heat-loving.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Karl S

                I totally agree with Karl... We are in the same horticultural zone - 6A . That means that we really do have to wait till the very last frost date has passed. Summer vegetables cannot be planted until the soil warms up and sometimes that's not until the 2nd week in June... much as we would like to get the tomatoes and peppers into the garden around Memorial Day. I've had snow in my side garden which is on the north side of the house.. in June!

                1. re: Karl S

                  Yes, agreed. Though we're eager to put in the summer crops, there's no point since they won't take off until the temp warms up.
                  In fact, even when I'm late in planting, I find they catch up just fine.