Late Summer Gardening; It’s Not Too Late to Plant

radishes  elizabeth rexler

Not getting my fall planting schedule down pat last year, I haphazardly planted spinach and carrots fully knowing it was too late for a fall harvest. Betting against Mother Nature, I knew I’d lose. I abandoned the notion of harvesting these crops before the winter set in, and all but forgot I even planted them in some of the beds. Quite the pleasant surprise awaited me when I returned to the gardens this spring; full heads of spinach and beautiful hardy carrots, far from the stunted kind you’d expect from a neglected sowing. Sometimes a little neglect in the garden goes a long way.

With that lesson learned, I suggest a few crops that can still be planted midsummer. If you’re a summer-lettuce lover but never quite get the crisp water-filled heads you crave, try planting butter head lettuce. It’s heat tolerant, thus less likely to bolt. Tyee spinach, another bolt-resistant variety, is a great late-summer, early-fall performer. Chard, arugula and kale can all tolerate high and low temperatures, so go ahead and plant away! Roquette arugula is especially tolerant of high temps. Bolting shouldn’t be a problem as long as you keep the soil moist. It will also flourish in cooler weather, making arugula a great late-season addition. I’ve had great success with red Russian and true Siberian kale. They are less pest-prone than the lacinato or dinosaur varieties, and they overwinter, becoming sweeter after the first frost.

squash  elizabeth rexler

Pumpkins! If you’re an adventurous gardener, try your hand at growing pumpkins. Word to the wise, it’s a bit like growing a magic bean: these cultivars will spread six to eight feet in all directions. Trellising can conserve space in the garden. Butternut, acorn and spaghetti squashes can all be grown in early summer, but keep in mind that they are plants with prolific vine growth and should be given ample room to grow.

Radishes are also an easy choice. Their four-week growth period makes them great for succession plantings. They provide instant gratification, and I know I love veggies with quick garden space turnover.

It’s only too late to plant if you hem and haw over “being too late.” Get your hands dirty, play your cards; it’s never too late to try.

Here are a few more suggestions:

Fennel: Sow late July or early August, under cover.
Spinach: Tastes best after first frost.
Beets: Try merlin or red ace and sow 10 weeks before first frost date (late July, early August).
Garlic: Plant in late autumn.
Mache: A nutty flavored green that tastes best in cooler weather, mache will grow in the winter months under cover. Sow when temperatures begin to dip below 80 degrees.
Peas: Sow in late summer or early fall, as they prefer cooler weather.
Carrots: Sow hardy, overwintering varieties such as nectar or Napoli.

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