If you are reading this in June or July, I’m here to let you know you still have time, though the later in the summer, the more limits you will have, as some plants need the full season to grow to fruition. One piece of information I’ve used to determine my late started garden list is the “days to maturity” you see on seed packets. This gives one an idea of how long the plant needs to grow before you can eat it (which is why we have gardens, am I right?). The second criterion I utilize is frost tolerance. Believe it or not, some plants can tolerate cool or even cold weather. These are generally vegetables in one of four families: brassicas (cabbages, broccoli, kale, turnips, and radishes), spinaches (including Swiss chard and beets), carrots, and onions.
So if you are game, here are some vegetables you can plant in June, July, or maybe even August:
Bush Zucchini/Cucumbers Most garden vegetables come in two types: regular and bush. The regular ones (also called indeterminate, pole, or vining) keep producing until the cold kills them. Bush (or determinate when talking about tomatoes) grow for a while, produce for a month or so, then slow down or stop completely. Because of your shortened season, the bush varieties are the way to go. Bush zucchini (and to a lesser extent cucumbers) are the best in terms of production. Plant these no later than mid-July to be on the safe side as squashes do not like the cold one bit.
Beans Easiest of all the vegetables to grow (in my opinion), just plant the seeds and enjoy. Even if you want to grow those varieties that need to go 90 to 120 days to give you cooking beans (also known as “dry beans”), you should
still be in good shape. If you are only interested in green beans, then you are in even better shape. Most bush green beans will produce within 60 days, meaning you could plant in early August and still be good to go.
Tomatoes If you can still get starts locally, then feel free to plant away. A good trick is to find a friend who will let you have a few stem and leaf trimmings off their plants. Stick these cuttings in water, let them form roots in a week or so, and then plant away. Tomatoes will die in October with frost, but you can bring in any remaining green tomatoes to ripen inside.
Swiss chard Think of Swiss chard as spinach on a celery stick. Unlike spinach, chard tolerates hot summers well and unlike the others mentioned here, chard will survive cold weather all the way into December, if the snow isn’t too bad. Sow seed to plant.
Potatoes If you can still get seed potatoes at your local garden greenhouse or order them online, then you still have time. Potatoes will grow until they get hit with frost. Most varieties are ready in 90 days, so mid-July is the latest they should be planted.
Most of the frost-tolerant plants I mentioned earlier don’t do well in the heat of the summer (the exception being Swiss chard). Once you get into August, you can start thinking about planting cool loving veggies for a fall harvest. My favorites (in order of preference and ease of growing) are radishes, turnips, lettuce, kale, carrots, onions, spinach, dill, parsley, and beets. All of these can be grown from seeds, though you will have to keep the soil moist until they germinate. The brassica family (radishes, turnips, and kale listed here) will sprout first, in only three or four days, while the carrot family (including dill and parsley) take over two weeks sometimes (SO slow). Just plant again if they don’t come up the first time. The heat of the summer will affect if or when your seeds will start growing. Some experienced gardeners will sow seed underneath beans or other plants they know will be removed soon to give the seeds some cooler shade before they need sunlight to grow.
One last note on summer planting: remember to water if we are in a dry spell, especially if you have just sown seeds or planted tomato starts.
For those of you who don’t want to (or can’t) garden (and you know who you are), here’s a way to get some local fresh vegetables for free. There’s an organization (which I’m the treasurer of ) called Edible Kent, whose whole mission is to grow food so it’s available to the general public. If you go to the Haymaker’s Farmers Market in Kent during the summer, you’ve probably passed our beds and didn’t realize what they were. There are two beds to the north of the market which flank the parking lot’s entrance. We try to have signage to let people know it’s okay to take stuff, but even after several years, not everyone is comfortable with gathering what they need. Of course, since these beds are relatively small, we don’t have a whole bunch of produce. And because these beds are visible to the public, we are limited on the types of plants we can grow. Cherry tomatoes would be great since they produce like crazy, but tomato plants are anything but neat. Our designs tend to go with prettier plants, such as peppers, the aforementioned Swiss chard (which comes in a rainbow of colors), leeks (in the onion family) and herbs, such as oregano, sage, thyme, parsley, and dill. We don’t normally plant root vegetables (like beets or carrots) as they are harder for people to determine when they are ready to dig up.
In summary, please feel free to take some vegetables if you happen to be down that way in Kent, either at the farmer’s market or if you just happen by. We want you to take it. Just leave some for others to have. Don’t be a selfish jerk. If you are looking for more information about gardening this summer, the Snarky Gardener will be speaking on July 22nd from 9 am to 4 pm at the Wilderness Center in Wilmot, Ohio. At their Permaculture Symposium, I’ll be covering urban permaculture practices (lasagna mulching, hugelkultur, growing food in front yards, and seed saving). Topics covered by others include an introduction to permaculture, foraging, food forests, backyard poultry, and rotational grazing. There’s a registration fee of $30 which includes locally-sourced, sustainable lunch! Space is limited, so please register with the Wilderness Center by July 15. If you have any questions about the Permaculture Symposium or wish to register, please call 330.359.5235.
If you are looking for more gardening information but don’t want to leave your house, please feel free to visit my blog— thesnarkygardener.com—or purchase my recently released book “The Snarky Gardener’s Veggie Growing Guide”, available on Amazon as an eBook or paperback.
AH, SUMMER! This is the time when vegetable gardeners like me are in our glory. All the hard work is done. Plants are planted, seeds are seeded, weeds are weeded, and all’s right in the garden. We now sit back and reap what we’ve sown. Or do we? Actually, there’s plenty to do all throughout the summer, though it’s more maintenance than anything else: watering, weeding, pruning, and watching out for vegetable predators, both insect and mammalian (darn groundhogs!).
Of course, if you weren’t able to prep and plant your May garden this year, then you are reading this while thinking, “Guess I’m out of luck. Maybe next year (sigh).” I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s never too late to plant a vegetable garden, except maybe past August, and even then there’s always garlic in October (yes, that’s when you plant it in northeastern Ohio). I’m always fascinated with how many people believe that vegetable gardening begins in mid-May and ends in October when the temperature drops below freezing. In truth, gardens can start in March and produce all the way until Christmas, if you plan correctly and use your imagination.