Is it too late to grow summer veggies from seed?

anchita(Bay area, CA)May 15, 2013

For the first time, we have the time and space to put things in the ground and my young kids were very excited to see things grow from seed. But we're running behind and someone told me today that it is too late to grow summer veggies and flowers from seed (we just got seeds for tomatoes, peppers, beans, sunflowers, marigold and zinnia.) Should I just explain that to them, get a few plants and save most of the seeds for next year, or do we still have a chance with the seeds? We're going to experiment with a few regardless, but I just want to set realistic expectations for the kids and myself. We are in the Bay Area (southern region of the peninsula), specifically in Mountain View. Any guidance will be much appreciated!

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I believe it's too late to plant tomatoes and peppers by seed this time of the year. If you can I'd buy some seedlings at the nursery.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 12:03AM
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I don't know if it's too late or not, but yes do buy a few plants as back-ups so the kids aren't disappointed with the gardening efforts. If you have room you could stick in some seeds as well to see how they do. There is a lesson in that for you all as well. Have fun! Wish I had a couple kids to garden with, but mine are all grown up.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 10:39AM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I agree you're better off getting tomato and pepper starts at this time of the year, but there are other plants that grow fast enough to start from seed now. Beans and sunflowers are among them, it's also not too late for squash if you'd like a cucumber or zucchini. Probably a good time for planting corn, too.

I'm not sure about the marigolds and zinnias, you might want get some companion flower starts too. Have you thought about planting any herbs? It's not too late to plant basil from seed, you can plant basil seeds every week for the next month or so for successive crops. If you're lucky you'll get the timing right and have lots of basil right when the tomatoes are getting ripe. I usually end up with basil a few weeks before the tomatoes are ready.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 10:40AM
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I've had good luck with tomatoes and peppers planted as late as June or even August, and then I get tomatoes and peppers during the winter. That might not work for you so far north, however. My pepper plants grow throughout the year, and they have really started to come back in the past three weeks, possibly because of the heat. Cherry tomatoes are very good for planting late and for getting tomatoes throughout the winter.

If it is warm enough for the tomatoes to sprout, I don't see why you would not get tomatoes. For me, planting early creates a problem. I planted basil last week that is just now coming up also, and it is doing better than the plants I bought.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 12:52PM
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Do you still have ~80 days before your first fall frost? If so, then why not plant seeds? Simple mathematics, friends.

If you're still concerned, buy plants as backups.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 7:00PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

In many parts of the Bay Area we get just enough heat to ripen tomatoes if conditions are good, putting yourself back by planting seeds late can mean no tomatoes. I'm not sure about Mountain View, but up here near Santa Rosa I always do everything I can to increase my chances of success with tomatoes. I follow the advice given by the Sonoma county Master Gardeners, they have some good articles on tomato growing on their website.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato Tales

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 7:26PM
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anchita(Bay area, CA)

Thank you very much for all the helpful replies and information. It is truly appreciated. We have a lot of space in our yard, so I'm going to get some vegetable plants for the main bed, along with planting a few seeds. I am dedicating an entire side bed for seeds, so we'll just put in what we have and observe it with a spirit of experimentation. Herbs! Why didn't I think of herbs? Thank you for that suggestion. Definitely going to start some basil from seed. Also going to add cucumbers and corn. The kids would love it if they came up and produced fruit... :-)

We'll do the same for flowers too, then. Get some from the nursery and sow some seeds too. We planted some tall sunflowers in a circle today, to hopefully end up with a sunflower tent/teepee type thing, and some dwarf ones which will be more in the kids' line of sight. As a bonus, we were visited by a hummingbird on an already-established salvia while we gardened. My 3 year old was thrilled and the 5 year old was sad to miss it because she was at school. The one year old was very excited, but only wanted to try touching/holding it, of course :-) Gardening with kids is challenging, but so very satisfying and wonderful! Thank you for helping and guiding us on our journey as the littles and I strive to learn together.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 1:07AM
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anchita(Bay area, CA)

Don't know why my post above showed my old location/zone. Which reminds me, I should probably research more about my current one!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 1:13AM
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It's not too late to plant lettuce either, but it does not do well in a hot summer, and I can only grow it in the winter. I also grow cilantro and dill mainly in the winter, and in the summer, I grow them in shady areas. Lettuce should do okay for you if you can keep it watered.


Here is a link that might be useful: Lettuce growing tips

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 12:34PM
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