“So, I didn’t plant as much in the spring as I had hoped. What can I plant in the summer?”
“The late freeze took too many of my plants. Is it too late to recover my garden?”
“I’m new to this gardening thing and I’m learning! Please help!”
First, Take a Deep Breath.
The short answer is that it is NOT too late. Honestly, my personal opinion is that it is NEVER too late or the wrong time to plant something. Every season, in every place, there is opportunity to grow. Perhaps you need to think outside of the box if it is the middle of winter in Minnesota. But there are even options there, too, especially if you are willing to grow non-traditionally or inside your home.. But getting back to the topic at hand…
There are many types of crops that are fabulous choices for consecutive or staggered planting. In fact, nearly every crop can be planted from its earliest suggested time through its latest, staggering the plantings every two to four weeks. If you are already at the later end of the planting season, plant them anyway! Then, decide that next year you might experiment with staggering from the start.
Okay, but what should I do right now?
What did you already plant, or plan to plant? Whatever you already planted (or attempted to plant), consider planting more of it. Have you already harvested those zucchini and yellow squashes? Plant more right now! You may get a second harvest off of them before the season is out. Herbs are always a good choice. In fact, I have found that my herbs tend to bolt (flower and go to seed) rather quickly in the heat of the summer. However, planting herbs every two weeks or so ensures that I have fresh herbs for my kitchen all season long. The same idea applies to lettuces. Plant loose leaf lettuces all summer long and offer them a little shade protection. You’ll love having fresh salad greens and garnishes all season. Root vegetables are another excellent choice. You are sure to get a second harvest before the cold sets in. Sweet potatoes in particular love heat and grow very well in hot climates. But even if you live a bit farther north, the summer is the perfect time to plant sweet potatoes!
CUCUMBERS. Plant another (or a first) round of cucumbers. Actually, the later you plant them, the less susceptible they are to some common pests that love to feast on your produce. In my own search, I found these very interesting organic cucumbers that are heat-tolerant. I love discovering and trying out new things!
SQUASH. Just as for cucumbers, later plantings of squash may avoid some common pests (like squash bugs and vine borers).
TOMATOES. You may already be harvesting tomatoes from your garden, but there’s still time to plant more! I mean, why stop now? Or if you missed the spring sowing, consider varieties that are cultivated specifically for growth in higher temperatures, such as this one.
RADDISHES. Radishes are a great garnish or a good way to spice up so many dishes. I love them on street tacos! The great thing about radishes is that some varieties can even be harvested in less than a month’s time!
LETTUCES. As I mentioned above, planting leaf lettuces that you can just keep harvesting young leaves from can be a great way to keep eating from your garden through the summer, and even into the fall. Seek out varieties that are a little more heat tolerant, and if you live in a particularly hot or sunny place, a shady location may be in order. I would avoid Crisphead lettuces, as they do not do well in heat. Romaine lettuces could be a bit touchy in the heat, but there are heat tolerant varieties that can do well in the summer, such as Anuenue, Coastal Star, and Jericho, which were developed in hot climates. Butterhead lettuces are my personal favorite, and can be grown in heat with some considerations for planting in cooler soil and with some shade cover. Some good choices are Bibbs (my personal favorites), such as Captain Bibb and Buttercrunch Bibb, or Adriana, Skyphos, or Red Cross. Leaf and Oakleaf (loose leaf) lettuces are the best choice for summer growing, as Oakleaf Looseleaf, Red Salad Bowl Oakleaf, Bronze Arrow Loose Leaf, Magenta, or Green Star. As a final note, most lettuce seed packages will be labeled as “heat tolerant” if they are particularly tolerant. If you’d like to take the guesswork out of deciding what lettuces to plant, check out this collection of non-GMO varieties, specifically chosen for heat tolerance. Here is another summer collection of both lettuces and other greens that are organic.
CHARD. If you think lettuce may be a little too sensitive for your climate, chard is a hardier choice. It also will do well into the cooler weather.
CABBAGE and KALE. Summer is a good time to plant these for the fall and winter months. You can also clip baby kale leaves as you go to harvest sooner.
POTATOES and SWEET POTATOES. Summer is the perfect time to plant sweet potato slips. You can also plant seed potatoes to have freshly harvested potatoes just in time for the holidays. (Perhaps you can plant the potatoes that have been sitting in your kitchen and now have sprouts). Potatoes grow very well in containers, which is something worth looking into if you have never tried it. Potato grow bags offer great flexibility when dealing with heat and sun, as you can move locations and they require a much smaller footprint.
ROOT VEGETABLES. Summertime is a perfect time to plant beets, carrots, turnips, and rutabaga, and should be seeded directly even in the heat of the summer. These root crops will thrive, maturing as the weather cools in the months ahead. Harvest after cooler weather comes for the best flavor.
Some final thoughts
NOW is the perfect time to plant something. As I’ve said many times, just do the next thing. If the next thing is grabbing some new varieties of lettuces and tomatoes that do well in the heat of summer, just do it! If you love the idea of having fresh root crops – beets, sweet potatoes, turnips – for the winter, go for it! Just don’t let being unsure keep you from sowing some kind of goodness.
Remember, if you have a lot of direct sun on your garden or live in a very dry or hot place, consider things like shade cloth, which comes in all different sizes to fit your particular garden dimensions. You can easily use hoops and clip your shade cloth using greenhouse clamps to keep it from blowing away. Alternatively, maybe you have a shady spot on your property you haven’t used and could! Do some container gardening and place them where a tree will provide shade for the latter half of the day. This is a great thing to do when the heat is rising.
As always, I’d love to hear from you below! Ask questions, or let me know what you are planting this summer!!
Happy planting, and happy harvesting! Just keep growing!