It’s Never Too Late to Start to a Vegetable Garden!

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How did it get to be mid-June already? Father’s Day is just days away – many people, gardeners in particular may be feeling where did the summer go? Time flies by our busy lives as we juggle taking care of family, work and ourselves – making us feel like we never have enough time. The good news is, summer has not even officially started yet, so we can all take a collective deep breath.

Over the years of installing gardens, one of the most repeated reasons we heard why people hadn’t started the garden was that they felt they ran out of time. “Before I knew it was the end of June or July 4th.“ We would hear over and over again. “Why bother at that point, by the time I get anything going, summer will be over.” I find more and more how instant gratification is permeates so many aspects of our society‘s lives. We want things done yesterday, once we’ve decided to actually make the decision to do something.

Gardening can’t be rushed, you may be able to nudge Mother Nature along little, but that’s all you will really be able to get away with with her. Many people find the months of May and June rush by and the blow off any thoughts of starting a garden in July or August because to them what’s the point? They miss the growing season didn’t they? It would be too late to start a garden, would it?

No! It’s never too late to put in a garden bed and depending upon what zone you’re in, you may be able to start a garden 12 months throughout the year, while others may have to wait for snow so far. 

If you goal is vegetable gardening yes there are certain plants that can be seeded throughout the year. If you’re just starting your garden and it’s July or August , we suggest you begin with planting some herbs in the bed first. Herbs starts can be found your round at a local nursery or farmers market. Flowers too, such as marigolds are geraniums will give you a raise bed instant color which will spread out and last into the fall. But what about the vegetables? By this time they’re usually are no more starts to be found at the farmers market or nurseries so you will have to start from seed. 

There are plenty of delicious fresh vegetables which can be seeded in July and August delivering to you a delicious fresh harvest in September and October. By midsummer, the sun is strong and it will heat the soil in your new raise garden bed quickly. Raised bed gardens warm up faster than in ground garden beds and depending upon the material used can be a few degrees warmer too.

There are a multitude of quick growing vegetables that enjoy summer heat. We look for slow-bolting and heat tolerant seed varieties that work better in the hot summer. When starting a garden “late” in the season, we look for quick-growers that will give us a harvest before the growing season is through.  These vegetables don’t take too long to reach full maturity and most of the specific ones listed, we have used successfully in our clients’ gardens, as well as our own.[The links I include are for your convenience, I do not get any profits from any of the sales from the seeds, but I do recommend these companies]. Some vegetables are generally known to be quick growers such as radishes and lettuce. Many times we will use this quick growers when we do succession plantings in our garden. These quick growers generally  take less than a month to reach full maturity on average. Cherry bell radishes ( 22 days) or French breakfast radishes (25 to 30 days) or Viola radishes (24 days) – all can be enjoyed in a salad that’s all homegrown in a little over a month from the time a garden is started. 

A few years ago we added a second garden bed for a client – it was around mid-summer when the decision was finalized, so when we planted the new garden bed we planted a fall garden, meaning that everything would be harvested in late September- early October. We seeded summer squash, turnips, lettuce, beans, carrots. Summer squash loves hot summer soil and we picked a variety that matured in around 60 days, yielding multiple, bountiful fall harvests. Certain varieties can take even less time such Yellowfin and Sunburst squash which mature in 50 and 55 days, respectively. Or look for a super quick grower like Fortune squash which which matures in as little as 39 days! Tokyo Cross turnips mature in a quick 35 to 60 days and Golden Ball Turnips 45 to 65 days. 
Seeding the new raised bed 

Beans love the summer heat and there are plenty of varieties they can be enjoyed into the fall months like Speedy beans (50 days) or Wyatt beans (54 days). Other varieties include Calima, Mascotte and Golden Butter Wax.

Beets are also quick growers and there are plenty of variety that are heat tolerant. Early Wonder Tall Top beets mature in 45 days and are adaptable to all seasons. Touchstone Gold only take 53 days and Pablo beets 45 days. Bulls Blood and Golden beets also only take 50 days to mature.

Kale is another quick grower which should be sown in July to enjoy your fall crop. Nero di Toscana for instance matures in 50 days as does Redbor kale. 

It’s also not too late to enjoy carrots. There are a variety of carrots which one seeded in late July to early August can be enjoyed by the end of fall, early winter. Mini Adelaide carrot take 50 days, Mokum carrots take only 56 days, , CandySnax 65 days, Napa 63 days and Yaya carrots only 60 days.

There are even some cucumber varieties which can be started in late July which will allow you a harvest by summer’s end such as Chicago Pickling, 55 days to maturity but can be harvested smaller. Or Double Yield cucumbers 55 days or Excelsior and Straight 8 at 50 days.

It’s important to remember to think about the days needed to germinate as well which can range from 5 to 12 days on the average. This adds time to the overall time before your harvest comes in.

Fall garden favorites include a return to some of the cold crops of spring. The days maybe getting shorter and the nights cooler but that doesn’t mean an end to the growing season necessarily. There is plenty of arugula, lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard do you continue to enjoy in the fall if you didn’t have a chance to start your raised bed garden until late summer.

Fall, of coarse, is the only time to plant garlic bulbs which will overwinter and produce healthy harvests the following summer. We love cooking with garlic, onions and shallots so we always include these in our garden. These ingredients can add up if you use them a lot at the grocery store so growing them in our own garden is much more economical in the long run. Adding these bulbs couldn’t be any easier to plant too and it always makes us feel good to know that something is going on underneath all that snow in the winter time. There is also a wide variety of overwintering vegetables which can be seeded in the fall which will produce an early spring harvest; these include peas onions shallots and spinach. Spring onion seeds that are sown in August will be ready to harvest in early spring,  White Lisbon is a winter hardy variety that we have with had success with in the past. 

Autumn is also a good time to start an asparagus bed but choose autumn planting varieties like Pacific Purple. You can add another variety in the springtime to the raised bed.

Extend the season with a cold cover
cabbage and pak choi
Finally there are a few more veggies that can be started late in the season but require a little protection like a cold frame or cold cover. With a little protection you can enjoy winter salads, carrots , cabbages and pak choi through out the entire winter, particularly if you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse!

Life gets busy and there is no perfect time sometimes to do things, we just do them when we can get to them. So if you find you’re interested in growing your own food and you think it’s too late – know that it’s not.  Remember even starting late in the season you will be able to enjoy healthy harvests and will be ready to go come the following spring.

Tower Garden

If you want to push things along a little and don’t want to spend time setting up a raised bed gardens but you’re interested in growing your own food you can start a Tower Garden. Tower Gardens grow food three times faster and produces 30% greater yields on average than traditional methods. 

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