Published on 04/16/01

It's Not Too Late to Plant in Garden

Did you forget to plant at the proper time? Were you too busy to plant? All excuses are accepted. Best of all, it's still not too late to get in a garden.

Many vegetables can still be planted in the last week of April or even into May. It will surprise you, too, just how quickly they grow. Many vegetables don't do well in colder soils. Now, in warmer soil, they will take off and grow.

Photo: Wayne McLaurin

Peppers are "hot" in late-planted Georgia gardens.
Here's a look at some of the things you can grow.

Plant late tomatoes. As the earlier tomatoes are retiring from production, the late-planted ones will be coming on for great eating. You can even take the suckers off the early ones and root them. Just keep them watered. Extend the great tomato season.

Incredible Eggplant

I know many people don't like eggplant -- but it's so good! Its dark purple fruits make it quite a pretty plant, but when you stuff those fruits with shrimp, they're magnificent. Eggplant doesn't do well until soils warm up in May, so now is a good time to plant.

You can plant the hottest item in the garden, too, in May. Over the past few years, hot peppers -- Aji, Ancho, Cayenne, Charleston Hot, Inferno, Ring of Fire, Habanero, Jalapeno, Serano, Thai Hot, Tabasco -- comprise the single biggest increase in garden crops.

If you have room, plant sweet potatoes, a true hot-weather crop. Get the slips from someone, or take tip cuttings (the last 8 inches of the vines). Or get some sweet potatoes from the grocery store and sprout them for the cuttings. Next fall, you'll be glad you planted them, when the weather is cool and you smell sweet potatoes baking.

Never Too Much Okra

It's also a good time to plant one of my favorite vegetables: okra. Having grown up with it in the garden every year, on the table four or five times a week in season and frozen or pickled at other times, I still love it.

Okra is from tropical Africa and does best when planted later in the season. I've heard all of the stories and jokes about the properties of okra "juice," but this texture can be remedied.

Allow small, raw okra in Italian salad dressing to marinate for 1 hour -- this is much like a pickled product and is excellent in salads.

However, remember that the properties that make okra objectionable for some uneducated palates is the critical ingredient for making that famous Creole shrimp gumbo.

There's still plenty of time for good gardening and even greater eating from your garden.

Wayne McLaurin is a professor emeritus of horticulture with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.