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Many people finished planting their gardens in May. They are now catching their breath from all the hard work, and just enjoying watching plants grow, envisioning many meals with their home-grown vegetables and savoring the first blooms from annual flowers.

For all their vigor now, some vegetable varieties like cucumbers, zucchini and tomatillos, are spent by September. Some annual flowers also will be pretty much finished and looking shabby by then.

June is an important and opportune time for planting a second crop of these type of plants both for procrastinators who still haven’t planted summer gardens, and those who desire vegetables and flowers well into the fall season.

Our very long growing season gives us the opportunity to plant many vegetables and flowers through this month and still get blooms or fruits before the weather becomes cold.

Our growing area is very large and encompasses many different climates and micro- climates.

Some areas are almost frost-free, while in others the last frost occurs in mid to late May. The first freeze in the fall may come as early as late September or wait until late November.

Frost dates can vary greatly from year to year. In coastal climates, some plant varieties may get powdery mildew in the fall even though growing temperatures are still good.

In each area it will take a little experimenting to determine the last possible date to do a late planting of each warm season vegetable or flower variety. Observe also how your friends and neighbors’ plants are performing each season to help with the process.

Vegetables and flowers have a specific number of growing days from planting to maturity. It is fairly easy to find this information. Seed packets and starts labels often note it. Each variety of vegetable has a lot of variation. For instance, there are melon varieties that will mature very early, in only 68 days, while some of the latest maturing varieties mature in 110 days, with many maturity dates in between. At this time of year, it is best to plant early maturity varieties as you want them to mature when it is still warm enough to bring out the best flavors. Next year in May, for an almost perpetual harvest if you have space, plant a number of different varieties that will mature on various dates as the summer progresses. Some pumpkins can still be seeded or planted now for an October harvest, but best to chose shorter maturity varieties. Pumpkin variety maturities range from about 85 days to 100 days.

As noted earlier, some vegetables don’t last all summer. If you planted vegetables like cucumbers and zucchini in mid-April or early May, they may be finished or have greatly declined by September, when it is still prime growing season and high season for summer salads and summer vegetable dishes. Also, young, vigorous plants are generally less susceptible to powdery mildew that is an issue in some climates in the fall. Other plants like bush green beans generally mature very quickly in only about 60 days and need replanting several times. Seed them about one month apart for an ongoing bean harvest all summer. They only fruit for about 3 to 4 weeks. Pole beans fruit for a longer time, especially runner beans. Tomatillos mature in 60 to 85 days and fruit heavily but generally don’t last to bear fruit all season. They also need replanting mid-season.

If you can’t find starts, you can try seeding these plants providing you plant varieties that mature early. Avoid taking seed from root-bound or over-mature plants.

Many of our summer annual flowers also don’t last all summer, and by August or early September can look shabby. Just because a flower is called a summer annual doesn’t mean it will last all summer and into October when the weather is usually still fairly warm and dry. If you have procrastinated and not planted any yet, or you have just pulled out your Shirley poppies or other spring annuals, and have some space open, there is still time to plant many summer annuals to fill the gap and bloom into fall. Plants like calibrachoa, pink or white cosmos, salpiglossis,, signet marigolds, hummingbird sage (Salvia coccinea), Orlaya, lobelia, ageratum, and nemesia, generally are looking spent by late August or September if planted in April or early May. The trick may be finding young starts that are not root-bound or overgrown in pots if you don’t have the ability to grow them yourself.

Many annual plant blooms can be prolonged if spent flowers are removed. If you don’t have time to remove flowers one by one, cut plants back by about one-third to one-half when the majority — about 70 percent — of the bloom is finished. At this point they should be fertilized and watered well. I like to sprinkle organic fertilizer around plants, then top it with about 1/2 inch of nutritious compost. Petunias and bidens benefit from this too and should last and look good the remainder of the summer growing season. With others, like signet marigolds and salpiglossis, it will buy you more time.

Zinnias, orange klondyke cosmos, alyssum, Mexican sunflowers (tithonia), ornamental-leaf amaranth, gomphrena, long-season marigolds, and celosia, last into fall from a May planting, but also greatly benefit from having spent flowers removed as they fade.

Kate Frey’s column appears every other week in Sonoma Home. Contact Kate at: katebfrey@gmail.com, freygardens.com, Twitter @katebfrey.

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