By this time of year, many garden crops are nearing maturity. Peas are pouring out, the zucchini are rolling in, and basil is plentiful. Soon, you’ll be able to harvest these vegetables and herbs (if you haven’t started already!).
By just looking at your garden (or your neighbor’s plot), you can see that some varieties take longer to be ready for harvest than others. While snap pea plants are exploding with pods, tomatoes are just starting to flower. At this time of year, spinach, lettuces and tender herbs such as basil, cilantro, and dill are past the leaf-stage and are starting to bolt (sending up a central stalk to produce flowers and seeds). Unless you want to harvest these flowers or save the seeds, bolting greens and herbs become bitter because the plant is using all of it’s energy reserves. These crops can be pulled out to avoid extracting further nutrients from the soil, and make room for the next planting.
Maybe you didn’t even get to starting your garden this spring. Or, perhaps a friend saw your Seedsheet and got some serious garden-envy. Mid-summer is just the right time to plant your second (or first) succession of crops, whether in containers or a backyard garden plot.
Bonus points: a garden makes a fun and rewarding back-to-school gift for a college dorm room or young kid, and the next couple weeks is the perfect timing for it.
Here are some ideas and tips to get started:
- Salad greens are quick to mature, so these can be planted at any time. They favor cooler temperatures in spring and fall, but can withstand a mild summer. Plant greens every 3 or 4 weeks, rotating their location in your garden beds. If you’re planting in containers, make sure to refresh the soil for each new planting to make sure nutrients are balanced and not depleted, and to deter pests.
- Leafy-herbs can be planted again mid-summer for a second round of garden flavor. These will do well into the fall outside. Plant container herbs outside towards the end of the summer to get a nice strong foundation, and bring inside when the weather starts to get cold. Extend your herb harvest into the winter to have fresh additions to your dinner masterpieces.
- Hardy greens such as kale and chard can start now, and last well into the fall. These plants are a huge bang for your buck because once mature, leaves can be harvested weekly (or bi-weekly) and will continue to grow upwards (unlike salad greens that have a faster but shorter life-span). Keep kale in the garden through the first couple of frosts and harvest in the snow for some sweet leaves!
- Root vegetables are colorful, short-season crops that will do well in a second batch for autumn. Plant a second round of carrots and beets to harvest in the fall. Beets are flavorful and crisp in the fall because the greens especially love cool temperatures (as a hardy-green, cousins with chard). Carrots are fun to leave in the ground until after a frost because the freeze-thaw actually makes the roots sweeter.
- Summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash) only take about 50 days to mature, so these can be planted now for another fall harvest (trust us, you’ll be missing the zukes come winter!). Plant on black plastic or black landscape fabric, and the soil will stay warmer later in the season for these plants--not to mention, you won’t have any weeds.
- Peas and beans planted now will produce a fall harvest (about 50-60 days) and don’t mind the cooler temperatures. Don’t forget pickling to preserve your crunchy legumes! Dilly beans and pickled snap peas are great to enjoy all winter long when canned properly.
Now you can really earn your “overalls” and maximize the growing season on your porch, balcony, or backyard.
Time to plant...again!