As a little girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest suburbs of Seattle, Washington, our lilacs would usually be blooming around the time that May rolled in.
I have fond memories of picking lilacs and blue bells, and making May Day baskets to leave as surprises on my grandmothers’ porches.
Alas, in Michigan the lilacs don’t bloom quite as early, but their purple beauty has started to form and soon we will be blessed with an abundance of color and fragrance.
Michigan’s last, average frost date is May 15th. That is the day that it is generally recognized as safe to plant warmer weather loving plants outside. So now is the perfect time to start thinking about what you might want to consider growing.
If you’ve been longing to try your hand at a few things, but don’t know where to start, here are a few amazingly easy options:
These flowers may be last alphabetically, but they are first in a brilliant array of colors.
Planting a package of zinnia will ensure you lots of blooms that hold up well in the summer heat and humidity.
They, generally, have long sturdy stems and last a long time in arrangements once picked.
They will also continue to grow more blooms after cutting until the season’s first frost.
I recommend a variety called Benary’s Giant in a mix. That way you get lots of colors.
Follow the planting instructions on the seed packet and in about 2 1/2 months you’ll have blooms.
Sunflowers are some of the quickest summer flowers to grow and you have a myriad of types to choose from.
For the big, tall, single blooms we all love, try a Procut Orange and for a little variation try the lighter, more pale yellow, of Procut Lemon. These beauties grow in about 50 - 60 days, but only grow one flower each.
If you like a shorter, branching type of sunflower with lots of blooms, try Sonja for standard flowers or Strawberry Blonde for a red tint. Branching sunflowers grow anywhere from 55 to 85 days depending on the variety. Branching varieties will bloom multiple times each season.
If you don’t have a space for taller varieties of sunflowers, consider a dwarf version. These are perfect for containers. My absolute favorite is the Teddy Bear! It is as cute as its name; looking like a fluffy version of its bigger relatives. (Grows in about 70 days, producing one flower per plant.)
Sunflowers will survive some frost can be grown into fall.
While not as well know as some other flowers, these lovelies will grow tall and proud in your garden. They range in color from white to pinks, and dark burgundy. A “double” variety will give you a more fuller flower in bloom, while single varieties look more daisy-like.
Cosmos will grow and bloom in about 2 1/2 months. Once picked, they last an amazingly long time in arrangements.
Plants will continue to produce more blooms. So come and cut again until the first frost.
I’m sure you’ve heard the jokes about locking your doors during zucchini season so that you don’t get mysteriously gifted hoards of excess zucchini from well-meaning neighbors.
That is never a problem in my house because I use zukes for just about everything. My favorite is to substitute them in for pasta, in recipes.
I recommend only growing one or two plants for the home gardener as these babies really do produce and I don’t want you to have to be a secret squash ninja, dropping off produce on your neighbor’s steps.
I like to grow the long, straight Dunja variety.
Technically the long yellow squash I refer to as summer squash, and the zucchini, are both summer squashes.
I recommend growing both the traditional green zukes as well as it’s yellow cousin.
The tastes are similiar and they are interchangeable in recipes but using both in your dishes and recipes really makes a colorful pop!
Try the Yellowfin variety or the nuttier tasting Zephyr. But you only need a couple of plants because these produce just as much as traditional zucchini.
Both zucchini and summer squash grow in around 50 days and will keep producing until first frost.
You can also shred and freeze excess for use in the off season.
These is a must grow on our farm. Once you taste the sweetness of fresh-from-the-garden cucumber you will never want to go back to the bused in supermarket variety ever again.
Cucumbers take around 50 days from planting to develop.
I recommend the Olympian or Marketmore 76 varieties. Both produce well until the end of summer.
Put up any extra produce as pickles for the off-season.
My go-to source for all my seeds is Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Great prices, service, and quality as well as a wide variety of seed quantity options for different garden sizes and needs. Many professional growers use their seed, and their catalog and websites are full of growing information.
Other great sources include:
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Botanical Interest Seed Catalog
Don’t forget that we grow all these and more, here at Fox & Glove Farmstead as well, and we’d love to be your farm!
Please don’t hesitate to ask questions about cultivation (planting, growing, harvesting). We love to share our knowledge with you.
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Have an awesome month of May!
Bloom & Grow,