Many gardeners find it a little confusing when it comes to when to plant out summer crops. When should you take the plunge and place your indoors grown summer crops into their final growing positions? You may well wish to simply source this information in an easy soundbite. But it is important to realise that there are a number of different factors that will determine what the correct answer is for you.
So in this article, we’ll take a look at the key considerations that you will have to bear in mind when choosing the optimum time to plant out your summer crops. This should help you gain a better understanding of this issue. And help you develop a plan as to when will be the right time for you.
How Location Determines When To Plant Out Summer Crops
First of all, your geographical location and climate zone will determine when to plant out summer crops. Of course, in the south of England, timings in the garden can be markedly different from those in the far north of Scotland. In warmer, more southerly locations, you will generally be able to plant out summer crops quite a lot sooner. Your climate zone, and the last frost date in your area, are key considerations that will help you work out the best time for planting out.
How The Specific Growing Location Makes a Difference
Climate zone, geographical location and last frost date are key things to consider. But it is important to understand that these things only provide part of the picture. The specific microclimate in your garden can also add some variables which should not be overlooked. For example, you need to think about sun and shade in your particular garden. And about whether the planting location is sheltered or exposed. Observation can tell you that certain parts of your garden may warm up a lot sooner than others.
Of course, you may have created a different microclimate entirely by growing in a polytunnel or greenhouse structure. If you are wondering when to plant out into an unheated polytunnel, the answer will of course by different from if you are growing outside. Generally, you will be able to plant summer crops like tomatoes into a polytunnel much sooner than you could do outdoors.
Weather Conditions and Planting Out Summer Crops
Even if you have taken all climate and microclimate factors into account, the weather conditions in a specific year can still surprise you. Just because you planted out summer crops in early May last year, that does not necessarily mean that you can do the same this year. Spring months in the UK can of course be very variable when it comes to the weather conditions. May can sometimes feel like summer. But a descent back into almost wintry conditions is not unheard of.
It is a good idea to have a rough idea of when you should plant out summer crops. But it is also important not to be afraid to change your plans. Take a look at weather forecasts before you make any decisions.
How Soil Type Affects When To Plant Out Summer Crops
Another very important thing to consider is your soil type. You can plant out summer crops sooner with some soil types than you can with others. Sandy and light soil types generally warm a lot sooner in the spring. While if you have a heavy clay soil, it is likely that you will have to wait a little longer for the soil to warm sufficiently. Clay soil is slower to warm, and can also be prone to waterlogging and compaction. This means it can be a mistake to plant out too soon.
How When You Sowed Determines the Decision
When you sowed your crops indoors will also, of course, be another factor to consider. Seedlings that are placed outside at too early a stage may suffer. It will generally be easier to manage your young plants if their root systems are well established and they have sufficient foliar growth before you plant them out. Seedlings should also be large enough to handle easily before they are transplanted. Since this will help to avoid issues with damage/ breakages.
Which Summer Crops You Are Talking About Makes a Difference
It is also important to realise that not all summer crops are the same. Some, even though they like warm summer temperatures, are somewhat less tender than others. Some will cope with a little chilling early in the season, while others will fail to thrive, experience a check in their growth, or worse. Make sure you understand the temperature requirements and other requirements of the plants you are growing, and only plant out once sufficient growing temperatures can be maintained in their final growing positions.
Thinking About Previous Crops When You Plant Out Summer Crops
One final thing to think about when choosing when to harden off and plant out your summer crops is what else is already growing in your garden. Sometimes, it can be beneficial to hold off for a while before planting out summer crops to allow spring crops to reach maturity. That way, you can harvest those early crops and create a space in your garden for summer crops to take over.
Waiting a while for spring crops to mature may be a necessity in a small garden, where space is at a premium. But it might also be helpful from a time-management point of view. You can think about planting out summer crops once the jobs associated with the previous crop are over and done. This can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed by all the different jobs to do in your garden.
As you can see from the above, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the right time to plant out summer crops. Since the answer will depend on the specifics of your garden environment, where exactly you are growing, timings, and the plants themselves. But whenever the perfect time to plant out summer crops does arrive – remember to undertake the hardening off process to get those crops off to a great start in your garden.
Do you have tips to share from your own experiences? When do you plant out your summer crops where you live? Let us and other readers know in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.