I'm going to go ahead and blame the weird spring we had here.
Yeah, I planted these at the end of March. It snowed like three times at my house in April. Not cool. So I blame Mother Nature's extreme mood swings for my less-than-stellar crop of peas, spinach, carrots, and lettuce. I got a few plants but definitely not the crop I'd hoped for. The only way I didn't get depressed about it all was that I kept telling myself, "There's always the fall crop. There's always the fall crop..."
Lots of home gardeners plant their cool weather, frost-hardy vegetables -- carrots, spinach, lettuce, peas, and others -- in the late spring. You can't plant leafy vegetables too late in the season or the hot summer sun turns the leaves bitter. With peas, if you plant them after April 30, they're susceptible to pea borers and they also can get a bitter taste. However, if you plant another crop of these vegetables in late summer (August or September), you can have a harvest in the fall. Lots of these cool weather plants, like spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, carrots, and peas can handle the lower temperatures of fall without problems. Lots of gardeners are unaware of this and think they have to wait until the following spring to enjoy the leafy veggies. Not so! I'm already gearing up for what I'm calling "Round Two" this year!
To decide what to plant and when, you need to know when the first frost is in your area. For example, mine is right around Halloween. You can find out what your first frost date is here by entering your zip code. Then, using the information on your seed packet, find out long that certain crop takes to mature and count backwards from that date to determine when you should plant. So, if you have a spinach variety that takes 40 days to mature, you'll want to count backwards from that first frost date to find the right window of time for planting. I've read that some crops take a little longer to mature in the fall, so some suggest to tack on a couple extra weeks into your calcuations. Basically, if you're growing a plant that takes 40 days to mature, count back 54 days from your first frost. This isn't set in stone, though -- if you're off by a few days, you'll be fine. Nothing in gardening is an exact science. Plus, some plants will be fine through the first frost anyway. I've harvested carrots right around the beginning of November!
One more note about late summer planting: some seeds have a hard time germinating in the heat, so be sure to keep them well-watered. If you're worried about poor germination, you can always use transplants from a nursery -- that is, if they are selling things like lettuce and spinach at this time of year. Like I said, not a lot of people know about the beauty of fall planting.
With some extra water and a little bit of planning, you can enjoy those delicious early summer crops once again! I can taste the homegrown salad already...