Most of us think of spring when it comes to actually putting seeds into the soil.
Summers are dedicated to weeding and watering. Planter pots have all been washed and stored away for next spring, along with any leftover potting soil and maybe a bag of vermiculite. But planting season isn’t necessarily over, just because it’s summer.
How much time is left to grow?
The first thing you have to ask yourself before planting in summer is how long of a growing season you have left. If snow falls where you are by mid-October, you will have to pick some pretty fast growing plants before tucking your garden away for the winter.
Here, in San Jose, California, we can plant crops year-round, but the list of plants is very different from one season to the next. Check your Hardiness Zone for first and last frost dates and then check seed packets for days-to-maturity or days-to-harvest information. There’s no sense watering and weeding a plant, only to have it killed by frost or snow before it can produce a harvest.
Cool season crops
In mild regions, summer is the best time to start thinking about cool season crops. Many winter crops take significantly longer than tomatoes and peppers to mature. Giving them a head start in summer means bigger harvests later in the year.
Look at your garden and try to imagine what it will look like in one month, in two months, in mid-winter. As spring crops peak and then fade, you can introduce winter crops under the protective care of your summer garden. In some cases, summer plantings can even give your spring garden a boost.
Most gardeners know that beans and other legumes are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen in nodules on their roots, with the help of certain soil bacteria. Once these plants start flowering, that nitrogen is no longer available. Up to that point, any neighboring plants will benefit from the extra nitrogen, giving them extra nutrients as they near the end of their productive lives.
If you live in Zone 9b, or tend to have mild winters, July is your last chance to plant beans for the year. Find space for one more planting. These beans will be ready to harvest long after any spring planted beans will have worn themselves out. They will also provide nitrogen to whatever is growing nearby.
Late summer is a good time to plant fava beans, another legume. These hardy legumes grow quickly, adding nitrogen to the soil and helping break up our heavy, compacted soil with their sturdy roots. The pods are pretty delicious, too.
Zone 9b summer plantings
While mid-summer is too late to start any more tomatoes, peppers, or squashes, there are many plants that can be planted twice in the same year in areas with gentle winters. Carrots, cauliflower, chard, cilantro, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, parsnips, peas, radishes, spinach, and turnips are all popular spring plantings that can be sown again in late summer.
Collards, dill, endive, and lettuces will produce an excellent crop if planted in September and October. And Brussels sprouts should be started in summer so that they can be transplanted into the garden by August, September at the latest. The same is true for cabbages, Napa cabbage, leeks, and okra. Chayote fruit can be planted any time during the summer.
By planting year-round, you are providing for the soil microorganisms that help your plants grow. You will also be providing your family with fresh, healthful food without ever leaving your yard.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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