EXTENSION CORNER: The mid-to-late summer vegetable garden: Keep planting!

Dixon Zorovich, CCE Yates County Master Gardener Volunteer

After a flurry of activity in May and June to get our vegetable gardens underway, July is a time to enjoy the first fruits of your harvest. From carrots to cabbage to garlic, you will have an abundance of fresh produce to eat immediately or to put up for the winter. While enjoying your bounty, don’t forget to keep planting!

A mid to late summer vegetable garden plan.

The key to keeping your harvests going through the fall is planning ahead and succession planting. Vegetables such as carrots, beets, bush beans, and lettuce and other greens (except spinach, which does not tolerate hot weather) can be planted every two weeks or so to ensure that you have a steady supply. In our area, you can plant bush beans through about mid-July and still have time to harvest before first frost. Faster growing veggies such as beets can be planted through mid-August. If frost comes early, just harvest as baby beets! By succession planting crops such as these, you can keep your garden in production well into the fall.

You may also find space freed up once you harvest “one and done” crops such as garlic and potatoes, both of which are typically harvested beginning mid-July. Garlic is a heavy feeder and will have extracted a good deal of nutrients from your soil, so mix in some mature compost and replant with an easier keeper. I have had good luck with replanting my garlic beds with dwarf snap peas. These fast-growing, bushy peas are nitrogen fixers and will help to return some much-needed nitrogen to the soil, while giving you a nice little batch of delicious peas. Planting a cover crop in the empty space is another good option. For example, Buckwheat is fast growing and drought tolerant and will improve your soil while suppressing weeds and providing food for bees and other pollinators. Once frost kills it back, it will provide a natural mulch for your bed, helping to hold the soil in place throughout the winter.

Depending on the size and variety of your vegetable garden, keeping track of what to plant when can be a challenge. I use two simple tools to help me manage my garden all season long. One is a simple spreadsheet, organized by month and week, with a column listing what needs to be done that week and another column where I record what I actually did (often woefully different!). I also make notes about the weather and rainfall, what critters I am battling, and how everything is progressing. My second, more low-tech tool is a simple poster board of my garden, which provides a visual, at-a-glance snapshot of my whole garden. I use Velcro-backed paper squares to represent my beds and my first task in mid-winter is to decide what is being planted where and attaching the appropriate square to each bed. During the season, I remove or move the squares around as I replant. Once the season is done, I leave all the squares in place, so I have a record of what was planted where and can rotate them accordingly the following year.

As your harvest those first juicy tomatoes or crunchy beans, take a moment to congratulate yourself. Then get your hands dirty again with your late season garden. Happy gardening!

This article was previously published in the Summer 2021 issue of Gardening Matters. Gardening Matters is a newsletter published four times a year in spring, summer, fall, and winter, and is put together by the Yates County Master Gardener Program. Complimentary copies of the Summer 2021 issue of Gardening Matters are available at the CCE-Yates County Office, The Keuka Lake Association, and Horning’s. For more information (or to view previous issues), visit our website at http://yates.cce.cornell.edu/gardening/gardening-matters-newsletter, or call 315-536-5123.

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