Vegetable gardening is often considered a annual endeavor. The typical vegetable gardener welcomes spring by planting a little bit of this and a lot of that, waiting for summer to harvest their bounty. Committed vegetable gardeners even plant fall crops of spinach and beets for winter harvest. I like to think of vegetable gardening as an ongoing effort.
Now in the middle of July seems an unlikely time to germinate seeds for a successful harvest. It is the perfect window for what I call 60-day wonders. I stumbled on this window one year when calendar-wise it was too late to plant many things. My untimeliness opened a new dimension that has become a regular part of my planting calendar.
The object is to plant a crop that needs heat to grow yet ripens before autumn’s day length becomes too short. Plants will grow to maturity during late July and August. Flowers will develop and begin to ripen during the warmth of September. Harvest can continue for about 30 days.
Bush green beans are a reliable late crop. Most varieties begin ripening 50-60 days after planting. Blue Lake, Contender, Provider and Tendergreen are common varieties on garden center seed racks. Many stores put their seeds on sale in late spring allowing you the added bonus of a discounted price.
Carrots can be seeded in early July. The trick is to keep the top of the soil moist while the seed is germinating. Wet burlap or thick layers of wet newsprint can help retain the moisture at soil level. Try seeding carrots in the shade of a tomato or pepper plant to protect the new seedlings from abusively hot days. Harvest the carrots as needed through early winter. Colder temperatures bring out the sweetness in carrots.
Many seed companies recommend planting sweet corn through July. I have not tried corn quite this late. Be sure the variety you choose produces an early crop.
Sweet potatoes slips can be set out in July and allowed to mature until the tops turn yellow in late autumn. Allow sweet potato plants to dry out in between watering. In addition, dig with a gentle hand for bruised sweet potatoes often rot in storage.
This year let the 60-day wonders work for you. It may make up for what was lost in the rains of spring. While you’re out there, weed a space for autumn’s veggies of spinach, lettuce, beets, turnips…. I’m getting hungry! How about you?
LeeAnn Barton has worked with nurseries for more than 20 years. She digs in the dirt in Stillwater. Direct any questions to her, especially about tree selection, by emailing email@example.com.