(This is a repost from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds….)
Late to the Garden Party: Vegetables You Can Plant in July
For most gardeners in the northern tier of the U.S., the customary time to plant vegetables is May and only May. How this tradition began is anyone’s guess, but we say “phooey.” Planting vegetables in mid-summer is brilliant. When September rolls around, you’ll be picking tender heads of Lettuce, baby Beans, Carrots, Peas, Beets and little Summer Squash. In October, you’ll dine on flawless Asian Greens, crunchy Kohlrabi, frilly Frisee and Radishes. And in November, you’ll be eating garden-fresh Scallions, spicy Arugula, Broccoli, Mâche, Peas, Spinach, Broccoli raab, Kale, Salad Greens, Turnips and Swiss Chard.
There’s something really wonderful about tending a fall garden. The panic of spring is gone and the heat and bugs of summer are history. Fall brings cool days in the garden and cool evenings in the kitchen, with the time and energy to satisfy those autumn cravings for deep green vegetables and sweet root crops. So how can you get in on the fun?
Pull Some, Plant Some. As soon as you’ve picked the last of the Peas, and the early Lettuce and Spinach are past their prime, pull them out and send them to the compost pile. Fork over the soil, add a little finished compost and replant. We like to fill a little box with seed packets that are ideal for second plantings, and keep it right in the tool shed so we can sprinkle a few seeds whenever a bare spot opens up. For mid-summer planting, our box always contains Bush Beans and short-vine Peas, Swiss Chard, Broccoli, Kale, Scallions and some heat-resistant Lettuce varieties such as Tintin Baby Romaine, Rouge Grenoblois Batavian and Danyelle Red Oakleaf. By the end of August we’re planting seeds for cold-tolerant crops that will mature in 60 days or fewer: Radishes, Spinach, Lettuce, Asian Greens, Turnips and Carrots.
Screen the Sun. The trickiest thing about planting in mid-summer is keeping the soil surface consistently moist. If the soil dries out during this initial 2 to 3 week period, the seeds either won’t germinate, or the newly sprouted seedlings may die and you will need to start over. Sowing the seeds just a little deeper than usual can be helpful. The best strategy is to just water the areas daily until the new plants get established. Note that many cool-weather crops, including Lettuce, will not germinate in soil temperatures above 80 degrees F. To create cool, relatively moist growing conditions, cover the area with a piece of shade netting or take advantage of the natural shade from a trellis or tall plant. Another option is to start your second crops indoors under grow lights.
Don’t Delay. Summer-planted crops typically mature more slowly than spring-planted crops (as the days shorten, plant growth slows). Using the days-to-maturity figure on the seed packet, add an extra 14-days as a "low-light factor". Find your first frost date on the NOAA website: Use this date and then count backwards to get the latest planting date for frost-sensitive crops like Beans and Summer Squash. Frost-tolerant crops such as Broccoli, Kale and Lettuce, will grow more and more slowly as the days get shorter. It’s important to get these crops to a good size before mid-September. After that, most can be harvested as late as Thanksgiving, but they won’t be putting on much new growth.
Hang Onto the Warmth. When cold weather arrives, you can protect your fall garden from frost and cold by covering the plants with garden fabric or a cold frame. It’s fine to lay the fabric right on the plants; the closer the fabric is to the ground, the warmer it will keep the plants. If/when temperatures drop into the teens, add another layer so your crops are covered with a double thickness of fabric~or add a layer of fabric right on top of the plants inside your cold frame.
Healthier Bodies, More Delicious Meals. We all know that at least half of the food we eat every day should be fruits and vegetables. How much easier and more enjoyable this is, when much of that food comes directly from our own garden. What will you make with these fresh vegetables that you’re still harvesting in September, October and November? Oh my! Well how about Chard Stems with Golden Onions and Fresh Bread Crumbs? Or Radicchio Salad with Parmesan-Balsamico Vinaigrette and Broccoli Raab Penne Pasta? An autumn favorite we never tire of is Beet Salad with Apples and Walnut Oil Vinaigrette. It almost makes us long for fall. But not yet~there are weeks of glorious summer days still ahead.
We share our best-of-the-best recipes so you can feed your family and friends well without feeling frenzied, and practical, hands-on horticultural tips to demystify gardening with seeds (it need not be tricky or difficult. Truth be told, it is a bit more like easy magic.) If you need help with anything, our office hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (860) 567-6086. Lance Frazon, our seed specialist, is happy to help you in any way possible. He loves to talk seeds.
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