It's Not Too Late for a Summer Vegetable Garden

10 suggestions for late planters

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jeff Stafford

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Chioggia Pink Beets

Beets are usually thought of as a winter vegetables but work well as a summer crop provided you plant the seeds in full sun or partial shade and keep the soil moist. The plants usually reach maturity after 60 days when they are close to 3 inches in size (they tend to be tough and fibrous if they grow larger). When harvesting, don’t discard the beet greens which are delicious sautéed, steamed or in salads. The health benefits are also exceptional; beets are a tonic for the liver, help purify the blood and provide the body with essential vitamins and minerals.

Zucchini Squash

Zucchini is a popular summer squash, due to the soft, edible skin and meat, and a fast grower. Sow your seeds in a mixture of compost and manure and an all-purpose fertilizer like 13-13-13 and you can expect to start harvesting the zucchini within 45-55 days. This vegetable is very prolific so don’t overplant and allow plenty of room for growth. Zucchini is best eaten when tender (approximately 4 to 6 inches in length) and makes a great side dish or an ingredient in such recipes as black bean and zucchini quesadillas.

Okra Seedlings

You can plant this hearty vegetable in seed form or as a plant once the soil is warmed up to at least 65 degrees. It thrives in full sun and can grow from three to six feet tall. Once the plants are established, thin them to 12-18 inches apart. Okra usually matures within 50-65 days and is ready to harvest as soon as the okra blooms fade.

Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar snap peas are becoming a favorite among gardeners because the pods are just as delicious and tender as the peas inside. The bush variety seems to do best in summer gardens and some types start to produce peas after 60 days (90 days is more common). The plants do well in areas that get at least 6 hours of sun daily and you will need to support them with wooden stakes or trellises as they grow. Sweet and crunchy, sugar snap peas are ideal for salads, stir-frys and pasta dishes.

Rainbow chard

For hot weather climates, it is too late to grow spinach but a wonderful alternative is Swiss chard which can tolerate the summer heat if watered regularly. Soak your seeds overnight and plant them about 1 inch apart in non-acidic soil. Within 30 days you should start to see tender leaves that you can begin harvesting. Not only is chard high in vitamins C, E, A and K but it is also visually appealing with its leafy green leaves highlighted by brightly colored ribs of red, pink, gold and white.

Bush Beans

Snap beans, which include pole and bush varieties, are another foolproof grower for your vegetable garden and can produce pods within 35 days from seeds. Pole beans have long runners and usually require the support of stakes or trellises but bush beans take up less space and can provide an abundant yield for a small garden.

Cucumbers

You can choose between the bush or vining varieties but the vining type will produce more cucumbers. This is an easy vegetable to grow from seed and there should be 18-36 inches between each planting. All they need is full sun, fertile soil and about an inch of water per week and you should see seedlings sprouting within a few days.

Pinestripe Eggplant

Eggplants love full sun and fertile soil with a pH from 6.3 o 6.8 but seeds will take much longer to cultivate than young plants at this stage of the season. Also known as aubergine, this vegetable requires lots of water so you may find it more convenient to grow them in containers where you can monitor the moisture level daily while providing support for the tall, angular plants that tend to fall over with their heavy-bearing fruit. Experiment with such colorful varieties as pinestripe, globe, apple green, Chinese or Indian eggplant.

Honeydew Melon

If you have the room in your garden and don’t mind a long growing period of up to 90 days or more before you can begin harvesting, cantaloupe and honeydew melons are ideal summer season crops and high in vitamin C and antioxidants. While watermelons also do well in hot, sunny climates, these smaller melons usually take less time and produce more fruit.

Tomatoes

Who doesn’t love home grown tomatoes? They are one of the easiest summer vegetables to grow. Tomato seeds usually yield the best results but require a growth cycle of more than 100 days depending on your climate zone. Instead, you can have terrific luck with young plants if you get them started in containers. Purchase plants with no flowers and acclimate them to the outdoors with partial sun and shade. Don’t overwater or let them wilt and they should be healthy enough to transplant to your garden within 10 days.