If you were thinking about growing some vegetables but failed to get them planted this spring, don’t despair, there’s plenty of time.

Many garden centers still have tomato plants, however lettuce starts, if available, may be past their prime, so you may want to start it from seed. But don’t let this scare you, in most cases growing plants from seed is easy.

For some plants, such as cucumbers, beans, lettuce and kale, my secret to success is pre-sprouting the seeds indoors. Soak the seeds overnight in a dish of warm water. Then place the seed on a dampened piece of paper towel. Next fold it in half and place the paper towel in a plastic sandwich bag and park it atop the refrigerator. I check daily to see if the little white root has emerged from the seeds, the signal to carefully plant them in the ground or a container.

Beans can be planted up to 8 to 10 weeks before the first frost. Cucumbers can go in 10 to 12 weeks prior to frost. When buying seeds check the packets for days to harvest. Some varieties take longer then others.

For a fall harvest, peas can be planted up to 8 to 12 weeks before Jack Frost arrives.

Lettuce and other greens, such a spinach, chard and kale, do well in cold weather so you can plant them now through late summer.

When choosing tomato plants, check the tags for days to harvest. Cherry tomatoes and other short season varieties, such as Early Girls, are good choices for a late season start.

Tomatoes can also be propagated by cuttings using 4 to 6 inch suckers. Once rooted they grow fast, so it’s worth giving it a try. Remove all but the top 4 leaves and place the cutting in a glass of water out of direct sunlight. When the stem begins to sprout roots, pot it up in a foam cup with a hole punched in the bottom for drainage and place it in a sunny location. In a couple of weeks it will be ready to plant in the garden.

When growing veggies in containers, I enrich the soil with good quality compost, such as Organimax, at a rate of 3 parts potting soil to 1 part compost.

Self-watering containers are great for growing vegetables and they make it easy to take advantage of sunny spots in the yard or on the patio. The Gardener Supply catalog has dozens to choose from in all sizes and colors:, (888) 833-1412.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnewscom/homestyle.

Read or Share this story: