Spring Gardening in NJ: What to Plant on May 15?

Hello from Garden Beds-N! Are you keeping up with your spring gardening schedule for NJ zone 6?

Based on how our recent weather has been, you should have already planted the following:

Peas. These should have been planted around March 15, no later than the last week of March. They take about 2 months to mature. Enjoy some fresh-picked snow peas, snap peas or shelling peas during May and June. Remember, the more you pick, the more the plant will produce.

Lettuce. if you put yours in during April, it should be ready for picking sometime this month. Fresh garden salad, yum. Lettuces can be planted in succession, so feel free to direct-sow more lettuce seeds. Mesclun mix, butter lettuce, Boston lettuce, and romaine are all nice choices.

Beets. These take around 2 months to reach maturity, sometimes more or less depending on the variety. If you got yours planted in April, they should be ready by June. Like lettuce, you can successively plant more beets to enjoy in another 2 months. Wait until the first set of beets are about halfway mature before planting more. We direct-sowed some beet seeds, and we also bought a few beet plants from our favorite local nursery, Cierich’s. So if all goes well, our beet planting should give us two successive harvests.

Radishes. Another April planting, radishes will be ready to pick as soon as 3 weeks from planting, depending on the variety. If you’re growing them, be sure yours get a lot of sunshine so the roots will form. Pick them as soon as they’re ready so that the roots will be crunchy and crisp. Perfect for those late spring and early summer salads!

Onions. These are one of my favorite garden veggies. The idea of getting a fresh, aromatic onion right out of my backyard, how awesome. Onions can take as long as 31/2 months to mature. Check the label on the type you planted. If you enjoy cooking wiht scallions (green onions), you can snip these as soon as 30 days after planting.

Swiss chard. This leafy green takes 4 to 6 weeks to mature – so, if you planted yours in mid to late April then you can expect to start using chard in recipes by mid or end of June, maybe early July. We pick ours leaf by leaf, as needed in cooking. The plants produce all through the summer and into early fall, until frost gets the best of them. Cut back your Swiss chard plants once they reach 12 inches tall, as the older leaves become bitter.

Kale. Kale is one of those leafy greens that loves cool weather but tolerates most any growing conditions. You can grow kale throughout the summer, however, the best flavor comes once the plant has been kissed with a little frost. With this in mind, if you direct-sowed kale in March or April then you can pick it about a month or month and a half later… so, around mid May. Plant more kale in mid summer to enjoy this fall and winter.

Broccoli. This gardener’s favorite takes roughly 2 months to mature when planted from seed. If you got your broccoli in the ground in April then you can enjoy some fresh picked florets in June. Once the summer weather hits, your broccoli plants will bolt (send up flowers) and become bitter.

Note: there are many more exciting and good-for-you veggies to grow in the spring and summer here in NJ. For a full encyclopedia of plants, including description, days to maturity, planting, harvesting and storage instructions, plus tips for dealing with pests and disease, check out our NJ zone 6 gardening guide, available for online purchase and instant download.

What Veggies to Plant in NJ on or Around May 15?

All that said… if you’ve planted none of these early spring vegetables, that’s perfectly okay. You can still enjoy a garden patch full of summertime favorites. They call May 15 NJ’s official garden planting day. That just means that this is the time to plant hot-weather loving veggies like tomatoes, zucchini and yellow squash, peppers, eggplant and herbs.

If you know you aren’t going to be around the second week of May, that’s okay. Based on the weather outside, it appears that we are in the clear for planting all the hot-weather loving veggies listed above and whatever else you can think of.

Should you direct-sow, or transplant? We like to transplant starter plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and basil. This way, we can enjoy an earlier harvest. Some tips:

Tomatoes. Choose several different varieties with varying days to maturity. We like to plant at least one kind of tomato that matures before 4th of July. Then we might also do some cherry tomatoes (perennial kid favorite), Roma plums, and heirloom slicing types. When planting tomatoes, bury the plant ¾ of the way in the ground, in fluffy, organic matter-rich soil. Use cages or stake your tomato plants to prevent the fruits from dragging on the ground.

Peppers. Peppers are also fun, in that you can plant several different types to enjoy in late summer salads, on the grill, and in September chilis, stir-fries and other recipes. You can also pickle peppers come early fall, to have throughout the winter. We like to plant green bell, yellow frying peppers, jalapenos, cayenne, and habanero peppers. They’re easy to grow. Peppers mature in as few as 60 days for bell varieties, and longer for hot peppers. Did you know that green bell peppers will eventually turn red if left on the vine long enough?

Eggplant. Eggplants require evenly moist soil and lots of organic matter to thrive. If you transplant starter plants by mid May, they will take approximately 75-85 days to reach maturity. The more you fertilize them with organic matter, the bigger and better fruits they will bear.


Summer squash (zucchini and yellow squash). Plant your summer squash plants far enough away from the rest of your garden so that the plants can spread fully without crowding out everything else. They will take about 2 months before the squash are ready to harvest.

Cucumbers. Cucumber plants send out runners that will grab onto whatever is nearby, including trellises, fences, and other garden plants. They will grow on the ground, and can be planted at the border of your garden beds and moved as the plants mature so that they aren’t sitting on top of other garden veggies plants. However, the best cucumbers form when the plants grow up on a trellis and do not touch the ground. Your cucumbers will be ready to pick in about 2 ½ months – so, by end of July if planted in mid May.

Beans. Pole beans are easy to grow and a favorite for kids to pick and eat right off the vine. There are many varieties, including green beans, yellow wax beans, lima beans, tiger beans, and more. They are quick to mature (as soon as a month) and can be planted in succession so you can harvest different types of beans throughout the summer. Provide a trellis or pole for climbing varieties. Bush bean plants are perfect for the gardener who is limited on space or time to fashion climbing structures. These can also be pickled in jars at harvest time.

Herbs. Parsley, basil and cilantro should all be planted on or around May 15, along with your other summer veggies. Some say that parsley prefers to be direct-sown, but we have transplanted parsley with success for several years now. All of these are tender herbs that are susceptible to frost. You can snip bunches of these for use in cooking throughout the summer. Parsley takes 40-60 days to mature, basil takes 60-90 days, and cilantro takes 60-70 before you can use the leaves. Cilantro also makes seeds (known as coriander) which require an additional month from the time the leaves are mature.

We love seeing your garden pics! Please feel free to share them on our Facebook page, especially if we installed your raised bed garden for you!

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