Skip to content

Plant an (almost) Instant Kitchen Garden this Weekend

Maybe this was the year you planned to have a vegetable garden. You’ve waited for the right weather and the perfect time. Perhaps some of life’s unpredictable events, like a new job or a cold even, have thrown off your schedule.

Here it is– the start of June already!– and you are wondering if there’s still time to plant anything.

The answer is an unequivocal Yes!

Here are some suggestions for planting an almost-instant kitchen garden.

1. Select and prepare your garden space.
Decide on a modest-sized space in the sunniest part of your yard. Set aside your inhibiting ambitions and scale back, if necessary, to a reasonable 3” x 3” section or perhaps 3” x 6”. If you can reclaim an existing but neglected bed, all the better.

Weed as thoroughly as you have patience to manage. The prep work you do is a worthwhile investment.

If I were starting a new gardening or revitalizing an old garden, I’d take the time to double-dig the soil. Explanation of that technique can be found here. There’s some disagreement whether double-digging is necessary, but I credit the work we did when we put in new garden beds almost 16 years ago with laying the groundwork (ha!) for our long-term soil improvement project.

If this sounds like too much work, modify your plans again and think “Container Garden.” You can grow just about anything in containers, including tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. Gardening in containers also allows you to start with weed-free soil. It’s also a great idea if you have any concerns about soil contaminants.

2. Get your seedlings.
Yes, seeds are less expensive than seedlings. With planning, a gardener can discover an unbelievable variety, both locally and through catalogs.

But if we are talking about an instant garden, eschew seeds in favor of seedlings.

A wide selection of seedlings can be found at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market and other area farmers markets. Seedlings are also available at garden centers and many of the big box stores.

The key is to select healthy plants. Choose seedlings that are a healthy green and off a medium size. Avoid plants that are lanky, long, or thin. Skip the plants that are already flowering too. Avoid plants with yellowing leaves. Watch out for plants that are root-bound or pot-bound. Finally, inspect for pests like aphids or ants.

If you’re plants have been raised in a greenhouse — most have and you can also ask– you will need to harden them off. Hardening off plants means gradually exposing them to full sun so that they don’t get shocked and die off. You can put them outside in a partially shaded area or bring them inside for shorter periods each day.

One more note: households that receive SNAP EBT benefits (food stamps) can use those to buy seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.

3. Plant ASAP.
After you’ve hardened off your plants if need be, make a point of getting them planted as soon as you can.

Cool, overcast days –like the ones predicted for this weekend– are the best times for planting. Dig the holes a bit larger than the root of the plant.

Handle your plants carefully. Their tiny root systems are delicate. If the roots are tangled, you can carefully separate or “tickle” them to encourage them to spread out and grow.

Plant the seedling at the same depth of soil it had in the pot. The exception is tomatoes, which can be planted a bit deeper or even sideways to encourage rooting.

If you want to have a kitchen garden this summer, you stand a good chance for success if you get your plants into the ground within the next couple of weeks. Don’t let the thought of skipping “the big vegetable garden” deter you from growing something. A modest start is better than none. Whether it’s your first try ever or your first garden in years, growing some part of your food provides satisfaction as well as the freshest food possible. You may find yourself inspired to do even better next year.

Posted in • Growing.

Tagged with , .

One Response

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. simeonem says

    Ypsilanti, Michigan….It is July 18 already….we’ve decided to build a vegetable garden with the kids (2, 4 and 6 yo)….is it too late to start? should we wait next May?
    if not, what can we plant now?