My garden is always later than I want. While my neighbor is cutting down his finished sweet corn, I just finished mulching the last of my sweet corn. He has squash running out his ears and I have just started getting fresh squash. I found myself buying fresh tomatoes from the Farmer’s Market for the 4th of July.

My garden is always later than I want. While my neighbor is cutting down his finished sweet corn, I just finished mulching the last of my sweet corn. He has squash running out his ears and I have just started getting fresh squash. I found myself buying fresh tomatoes from the Farmer’s Market for the 4th of July.
This is mostly my fault. I need twenty-eight hours for each day and another six hours for sleeping each night. As usual, I’ll try to manage my time better next season.
There can be an advantage to being the last one to have the garden coming in. I have tried to grow winter squash and melons every year. Just as I was ready to start harvesting, the plants would succumb to insects or disease.  A few years ago, I had a late start on the Cucurbitaceae family. I tried twice to start more seeds outside. As it got later in the season, I threw caution to the wind and started them inside the house. It was the best harvest I had ever had.
I still start seeds early, but as the first few plants show signs of pests or disease, I pull them up and burn them. This means I’ll have to purchase some fresh produce for a few weeks, but I usually have enough for fall and winter. And, I have little to lose by pushing the season a bit.
I’m sure everyone has been told to never start carrots, beets, snap beans, and peas indoors to transplant outside. But, I do it all the time. I must be careful and have the beds ready to plant in. I do my best to follow the same procedure each year.
Since it’s too hot for cool weather seeds to germinate outside, I set up trays inside the air-conditioned house last week. Most of the seeds were up in four days. Squash, cucumbers, peas, and snap beans were up in three days. Just as soon as they were up I placed a light six inches from the tray to prevent the seedlings from growing long necks. Today I placed them outside on a table in the shade. They will be misted twice a day for the next two days. They will be ready to plant in the beds on Monday. Soaker hoses will keep the soil moist and shade cloths are used to stop the sun from burning up the tiny plants. As the season moves toward fall, cooler temperatures are better for my cool weather plants and I will enjoy gardening more.
Enjoying gardening can be contagious. And, one of the best things about that contagion is teaching kids about gardening.  
I have found the younger a child is when introduced to the gardening world, the more likely they will enjoy gardening all their life. I have also, found that older children will accept gardening better if they aren’t used as labor force only.
Younger kids seem to love to get dirty; really dirty. They are still fearless when shown earthworms or insects. Their minds are still inquiring. And they tend to show me something I missed or have forgotten every time. One little girl was amazed at how deep and white the root was on an invading piece of despised wiregrass.
The hardest part of bringing kids to the garden is the learned fear of how hard they must work. I wish I had known how to see gardening like a child when I was working with my own children. They were fascinated by the world of gardening, but I needed workers, not dreamers.
Gardening is work. But, it’s a place where life starts. It’s home to unusual bugs, moths, butterflies, lizards, frogs, toads, snakes, wasps, and tiny unseen life in the soil. It is a most fascinating world, if I but allow the child in me to experience it.
Should you see me working in the Civil War kitchen gardens at the park, stop by. I would love to see that fascinating world with you.
What can be planted this late? Carrots, beets, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, snow or sugar snap peas, cabbage, broccoli, radish, turnip, and even some herbs like basil, borage, fennel, chervil, and cilantro can mature before frost. Don’t forget there are flowers such as nasturtiums, marigolds, baby’s breath, bachelor’s buttons, calendulas (pot marigolds), cosmos, pansies, petunias, Mexican sunflower, sweet alyssum, candytuft, and salvia that will make flowers in only 60-70 days. Some of these flowers will continue to bloom even after several light frosts. Swiss chard, lettuce, snow peas, cabbage, broccoli, turnips, radishes, beets, and carrots can all take light frosts.
Get some seeds and a kid. Plant them both. Watch a whole new world open right before your eyes.



Linda Simmons writes a column for the Neosho Dally News.