These end-of-summer edibles delight in hot days and muggy nights and grow quickly enough to produce a harvest in two months or less.
When the heat brings an end to the harvest of lettuce, peas, and many other cool-weather crops, it’s time to compost the sun-scorched remains of those spring edibles to open up garden space for the next round of vegetables.
Before selecting your crops, calculate the number of growing days left for your garden, so your harvest won’t be cut short by frost. In our area, we generally can expect the first damaging frost to be later October or early November, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Then use the “days to maturity” numbers on seed packets to help choose varieties that will mature within the remaining growing season.
The veggies we’re going to talk about here are all suited to mid- to late-summer sowing directly into the garden. All germinate quickly in warm, moist soil and thrive in summertime heat. Mid- to later summer – like right now – is an ideal time to plant some seeds for a second round of summer veggie gardening. I’m sure you’ll find that this second round is just as exciting – if not more so – than the first.
Right now is the time to plant some fabulous lettuces and salad greens to carry you into the fall season. Think about chard and kale, pak choi and other Asian greens that are so tasty in a stir fry. Snow peas. Spinach. Literally all of the brassicas.
One great thing about the late season crops is there are less weeds. While some of you are groaning about being sick of your garden, there really are a lot less weeds, garden pests, and – best of all – less work in bringing a fall harvest to the table.
For some of us, it seems really odd to be starting out with new seeds and seedlings when your zukes and tomatoes are still going like gangbusters. Trust me; you’ll be happy you did. You’ll want to start now, so that those seeds have time to develop good growth and strong root systems.
Start your new babies in containers or in an area that gets mostly light shade. Someplace where the seedlings will be out of the direct sun, won’t get scorched, but will still get plenty of light. Make sure they are planted in good soil that will hold moisture well. If you’ve already got some seedlings started, the best time to put them out is in the cooler part of the evening, so that there will be less chance of shock the next day, still keeping them in a shady location. Temperatures in the high 80’s will require row covers to keep new transplants to your garden areas shaded so they can adjust to the heat and the sun.
Just look at all the stuff you can grow still this summer:
Herbs: Arugula, Chervil, Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Garlic Chives, Parsley, and Watercress.
Veggies: Beets, Broccoli, Broccoli Raab, Carrots, Chard, Fennel, Kale, Leeks, Lettuces, Mache, Mustards, Pak Choi, Peas, Radishes, Salad Greens, Scallions, and Spinach.
Flowers: Alyssum, Bishop’s Lace, Calendula, Cerinthe, Clarkia, Cornflowers, Forget-Me-Nots, Foxglove, Larkspur, Nigella, Pansies, Poppies, Snapdragons, Stock, Sweet Peas.
Besides all of the above, summer squashes – including zucchinis, yellow crookneck, and those little flying saucer patty pans – are the quickest growing things you’ve ever seen. They just take off, and grow! Lots of folks get those nasty squash bugs on their cucurbits and melons, and they can really decimate a plant quickly. Succession planting is vital with these types of fruits and veggies. There are a ton of summer squashes that will start producing in sixty days or less. The fastest ones I’ve found are Golden Egg, Limelight or Ronde de Nice zucchini. Plus, baby squashes.
Another great veggie for filling in the gaps is the bush bean. Most varieties grow quickly, thrive in heat, and tolerate variable amounts of water. For best results, stick with fast-maturing snap bean varieties, such as Dragon’s Tongue, Provider, Royal Burgundy, or Blue Lake Bush.
It takes surprisingly little time and effort to grow a crisp cucumber. This vining vegetable grows best and fastest when treated to a nice dose of summer heat; many varieties shoot from seed to first harvest in less than two months. Varieties worth trying include Straight Eight, Sweeter Yet, and Northern Pickling.
Carrots, turnips, and beets are sweeter when the roots are harvested in cool weather, but they don’t mind the heat while they grow. Time your summer seeding so the crops are ready to harvest a few weeks before first frost—and plant an extra row of carrots for juicing or winter storage. As soon as the seedlings appear, surround them with straw mulch to keep the soil cool and moist. Try early varieties of carrots, such as Mokum or Nelson; Red Ace beets; and crisp, white Hakurei turnips.
For me, the end of the summer also means sore muscles, to the point that my sleep is disturbed. That means it’s time for the Epsom salt and lavender oil. Don’t get me wrong; we use lavender all year round in my house, but more so during the seasons when activity is higher. One of my favorite companies, New York Biology, sent me a bottle of their product to try out. Being picky, and always wanting to use a therapeutic grade essential oil, I don’t just throw any old thing in my bath water. I do like the fact that it comes with it’s own dropper, and the fragrance is heavenly. You can find this product here.
Now, get out there and grow something!