Now that spring is officially over and we have moved into summer there is change taking place in the garden. The cool season crops are on their way out and it is time to plant warm season crops in their place. Lettuce and spinach are turning bitter and bolting, radishes are getting spongy and the peas are finished flowering and setting pods. Its time to cycle the cool season crops out of the garden and plant other crops adapted to the heat in their place.
July is a great time to plant an additional crop of warm season vegetables such as beans, summer squash and cucumbers. This planting may be the second or even the third planting of some of these crops. Special care needs to taken during this time of year as the fragile sprouting seeds can easily be harmed by the hot dry conditions that July can offer. Keeping the seeds, newly sprouted seedlings and young plants well watered until they are established is very important in their development and maximizing their future yields.
As the season proceeds into later summer the opportunity to expand the garden continues. This is a prime time to begin planting some of the crops that will mature during the cooler fall period of the year. You can again plant many of the vegetables that you planted in the spring. Several seedings of radishes can be made through August and into September. One or possibly two plantings of faster maturing varieties of lettuce can be made. Harvest of these crops can extend well into the fall especially if frost protection is provided.
This is also the time of year that some of the best spinach of the year can be grown. Late summer planted spinach can be harvested in the fall by selectively removing individual leaves. Harvesting individual leaves rather than the whole plant will allow for the overwintering of the spinach plant with a little protection. Growth will resume in early spring giving you the first harvest of the new gardening year.
Other crops that can be planted in the late summer include root crops such as turnips, carrots and beets. These can be mulched and harvest late into the year also. Cole crops including broccoli, cauliflower, short season cabbage and kale can be planted late July through the first week in August for a fall harvest. Some of these cole crops are capable of withstanding temperatures near freezing for extended periods of time without protection.
Insects and disease can be a greater issue for summer planted crops. Population buildup of these two problems through the earlier part of the gardening year can be devastating to very young, susceptible plants. Practices that encourage strong, healthy growth will help the plant survive disease and insect issues. Planting resistant varieties and using other cultural practices such as watering early in the day to encourage quicker drying will help reduce disease incidence.
Summer planted vegetables can propel your garden to a new level of production. The summer garden allows for the extension of the gardening season well into fall and with some protection harvests can be extended up to and beyond Thanksgiving. The time to get ready for the summer garden is now so make your plans and get ready to plant.