EXTENSION CORNER: The vegetable garden from mid-season to the end of summer: Keep planting!
After a buzz in May and June to start our vegetable gardens, July is an opportunity to enjoy the first fruits of your harvest. From carrots to cabbage to garlic, you’ll have an abundance of fresh produce to eat right away or to prepare for the winter. While enjoying your bounty, don’t forget to keep planting!
The key to sustaining your crops through fall is to plan ahead and plant in succession. Vegetables such as carrots, beets, kidney beans, lettuce, and other green vegetables (except spinach, which is not heat tolerant) can be planted every two weeks or so to ensure a constant supply. In our region you can plant bush beans until around mid-July and still have time to harvest before the first frost. Faster growing vegetables such as beets can be planted until mid-August. If the frost comes early, just harvest the miniature beets! By successively planting such crops, you can keep your garden in production until fall.
You may also find some space freed up once you harvest “when done” crops such as garlic and potatoes, which are typically harvested from mid-July. Garlic is a big eater and will have pulled a good chunk of the nutrients out of your soil, so mix in some mature compost and replant with an easier keeper. I was lucky to replant my garlic beds with dwarf snow peas. These fast growing bushy peas are nitrogen fixers and will help restore much-needed nitrogen to the soil, while also giving you a nice little batch of delicious peas. Another good option is to plant a cover crop in the empty space. 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 the frost kills it, 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 one column listing what needs to be done this week and another column where I record what I actually did (often terribly different!). I also take notes on the weather and precipitation, the creatures I’m struggling with and how everything is going. My second, more rudimentary tool is a simple My Garden Billboard, which provides a visual snapshot of my entire garden. I use squares of Velcro-backed paper to represent my beds and my first task in mid-winter is deciding what’s planted where and attaching the appropriate square to each bed. During the season, I remove or move the squares as I replant. When the season is over I leave all the squares in place, so I have a record of what was planted where and I can rotate them accordingly the following year.
As you harvest those first juicy tomatoes or crunchy beans, take a moment to congratulate yourself. Then get your hands on your skin again with your end of 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 the spring, summer, fall and winter, and is produced by the Yates County Master Gardener Program. Free copies of the Summer 2021 issue of Gardening Matters are available from the CCE-Yates County office, the Keuka Lake Association, and Horning’s. For more information (or to view past issues), visit our website at http://yates.cce.cornell.edu/gardening/gardening-matters-newsletter, or call 315-536-5123.
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