Cornell Cooperative Extension

May 12, 2014

Waking up the garden

The gardening season is arriving very slowly this year. Everyone I’ve talked to, even those with greenhouses and high tunnels, is commenting on how far behind things are. 

These cool temperatures we’ve been having are ideal for spring bulbs so at least the daffodils and tulips will be giving us a nice long show this year. And once our lawns finally started to green up late last month, they really took off and now look great as well since they prefer cool, moist conditions to hot and dry.


Probably the most frustrated gardeners right now are those who are itching to get their tomatoes in the ground. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash (including zucchini and pumpkins), basil and beans are all warm season crops. If you try to rush the season and set out transplants now while the soil is still cold and the nights are chilly, they are just going to sit there. If you plant their seeds into the cool soil the seed will also sit, and may rot before it ever germinates.

Go ahead and buy your plants and seeds now, while the local selection is at its best, but be cautious about what you actually plant into the garden this year.

Our garden centers are chock full of gorgeous transplants right now. Don’t hold back buying them, just hold back planting them in the ground until it gets a bit warmer.

Wait to plant seeds of beans, squash and cucumbers until later this month, and if you have transplants to set out, keep them on your porch a while longer. If they are crowded in their pots, move them into something larger so their roots can expand and be ready to take off when they finally get into your garden. 

Cool season crops such as lettuce, spinach, peas, onions, parsley, carrots and beets love these cool conditions and their seeds should all have been planted by now. There’s still time to plant them, and I like to plant a succession of these crops every couple of weeks until July.

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Cornell Cooperative Extension