Our growing season is short here in New England, which means that if you want to fit in a few successive crops, you have to plan carefully. You can try to extend your growing season by using tunnels and other frost protection. These lettuces that I planted out on April 1, our opening day at PPCG, survived a few bouts of temperatures down in the 20s under a grow tunnel.
Other plants like tomatoes can suffer setbacks, if they survive at all, for the rest of the growing season if they’re exposed to cold temperatures.
Take a look at this handy chart from URI for a guide on when to start specific crops indoors or plant them out in the garden. URI bases their chart on a final spring frost date of May 15, which is a good guide for us as well.
Cool season crops, planted in spring, include onions, leeks, chives, lettuces, spinach, kale, broccoli, and peas. These plants not only thrive in the cool weather, but in many cases won’t grow well in the heat of summer. Broccoli, for example, can bolt to seed before you harvest any florets if the weather warms before the plant has produced. Here’s a blog post with a more complete list and some growing tips.
Warm season crops include tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, cucumbers, corn, eggplant, melons, and squash. You’ll need to start these crops indoors (if you’re growing from seed) at around the time that you’re planting out your cool weather crops.
Check your plant tags and seed packets for growing information, paying careful attention to ‘Days to Maturity.’ Since our growing season is on the shorter side, think about selecting varieties that mature more quickly. Johnny’s Selected Seeds is a great resource for growing information. Browse through their online information and request a catalogue. Seed Savers is another good resource. UMassAmherst offers a wide range of fact sheets.