Seed Starting. Image of young woman holding broccoli in her hands

Late Season Seed Starting for Your Outdoor Garden

It's Not Too Late for Seed Starting! Get Your Grow On!

It’s early May and you may be thinking…There is no way there are plants to start now.

Maybe you got anxious to plant outside (no judgement – who isn’t?) and your veggies got hit with frost. Maybe you couldn’t make it to the garden center or they already sold out due the huge demand to start a vegetable garden this year. Or maybe you just didn’t get around to planting seeds earlier in the season.

Do not fret – there is still time to start several seed varieties indoors that will let you enjoy harvest o’plenty. Since many seeds have a long germination time, like for example eggplants and peppers, we start them indoors in the late winter. However, there are lots of vegetable plants that can still be started indoors for later planting outside.

So get ready for a great list of plants to start now!

HERE you can find an in depth video on seed starting

But It's Already May...?

Yeah, it may seem counterintuitive since it’s May already but there are a variety of crops that will bring you a great harvest later outside if started indoors now. Using grow lights will make your indoor seedlings grow even faster. Here are some things to consider when making your choice on which plants to start now so you can enjoy a bounty of vegetables outside, even if you had a late start.

Brassica is Fantastica!

Members of the Brassica family are excellent choices. The plants germinate in less than a week and are ready to transplant in a few short weeks. These crops include:

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage (Red and Green)
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Cauliflower

The @wisconsinvegetablegardeners has a fantastic video on starting brassicas indoors!

Succession Crops

Those are crops that can be planted every 10-14 days to spread out the harvest by giving you several small crops instead of harvesting them all at once. You can also start crops in the late summer for fall harvesting. These plants traditionally include:

  • Radish
  • Peas
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Beans
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Turnip
  • Onion
  • Chard
  • Collards

Plants with Fast Germination

Another option for plants to start now are the ones that have a fast germination. Many of these are ones that can also be planted by direct sowing them into the garden. However, the number of days to be ready for transplant is generally shorter under Happy Leaf grow lights, so you can speed up the process by getting a jump start indoors. These crops include:

  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Summer squash
  • Winter squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Cantelope
  • Watermelon

Other Plant Varieties

Even if you prefer plants like for instance tomatoes or peppers that typically have a longer germination and transplant time, it’s not too late to start those in your house now. There are varieties that have been bred to be smaller and therefore do well in containers. So, if they aren’t ready to harvest before the fall killing frost, you can always bring the container inside and place under your grow lights to finish them relatively quickly. Give some of the following a try:

  • Eggplant ‘Patio Baby’
  • Cucumber ‘Spacemaster’
  • Tomato ‘Tumbling Tom’
  • Tomato ‘Tiny Tim’
  • Tomato ‘Spring Giant’
  • Pepper ‘Jalapeno’
  • Pepper ‘Habanero’
  • Pepper ‘Keystone Resistant Giant’

Plants That Have Short Crop Cycles

There is still time to start some varieties of tomatoes and peppers that have a comparatively short crop cycle. You will find that information on the seed packet as “Days to Harvest”. A typical tomato takes about 70 days, some longer. Try the following ones that mature relatively quickly:

  • Tomato ‘Early Girl’ – it matures in just 50 days after planting.
  • Pepper ‘Mountaineer Sweet Pepper’ – delicious pepper variety that is ready quickly and bears good yields, ready in only 53 days to green or 68 days to red peppers.

There are lots of plants that are ready more quickly than their “typical” counterparts. There is still time to sow any of those that have a “Days to Harvest” time of around 65 days or shorter.

Other Considerations

Notice that lettuce and herbs do not appear in any of these lists. Although there is still time to sow them in your outdoor garden, I simply find them so easy and foolproof to grow indoors that I haven’t grown them outside in several years. They stay disease and insect free, do not bolt, give you several crops when in an indoor controlled environment, and are unnecessary to wash. Best of all? It frees up space for some of your other favorite outdoor crops that need more room to grow.

Ready To Grow? I Know We Are...!

Now it’s decision time: Which seeds to pick? Which plants to start now? Only you know the answer. But here’s what we recommend: Get your pots and growing medium ready and let us know what you decided to grow – we’d love to hear from you! Get your grow on!

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