Being relatively new gardeners (this is our fifth year of growing organic vegetables here in NJ Zone 6), we occasionally still have to research certain aspects of gardening before being able to write about them. Mid-summer planting was one of them.
My mother has been gardening for most of her life, and I remember that last year she showed up in the middle of summer armed with seeds to plant beets, pole beans, and Swiss chard I think. So going on that… mid summer is a time to plant any vegetables that will either mature (for eating) before the first killing frost strikes… or, the kind that will survive or even thrive in sub-freezing temperatures.
We took a look at a handy chart that someone in Minnesota had posted on their website. While we are clearly not in Minnesota, having the mature dates will come in handy as we plan to enjoy some additional vegetables—I think they call it a bumper crop—before winter bears down on our area.
Hypothetically, if you started today (July 16), you could enjoy the following:
Basil. Matures in 1 or 2 months – so, you’d have your fully-grown basil ready for making Italian sauce or whatever else, by September 16 at the latest. And then you’d get possibly an extra month to enjoy the herb, provided proper growing conditions continued through mid October.
Beets. I trust my mother’s gardening knowledge – so, if she planted them for us last year, then you can definitely get a good crop of beets (from seed) if you put some in the ground about now. Beets will take about a month to mature, so expect something to start happening in mid August (but I would say continue to let your beet roots grow into the cooler months, as they will become big and sweet). I planted mine in April and just enjoyed some giant beets in a salad yesterday.
Broccoli. Takes 50 to 70 days to mature, according to the chart – and this is another crop that we did in April, experiencing success by June. Broccoli is wonderful for the body… why not put some seeds or young plants in if you can find them, this week. Then, they’ll be bursting with broccoli flower goodness in mid September. And even better, your broccoli will keep on keeping on well into 20-degree weather… that means plenty of broccoli for fall soups and sautees, yum.
Cabbage. We don’t grow cabbage, due to the smallness of our yard. But you certainly can! Cabbage does really well in cold weather; it’s another crop that thrives into the 20-degree mark. I would check out some different varieties of cabbage to see how long each matures. Then, you can stagger a few different cabbage crops to be ready for those hearty autumn meals such as sausage and cabbage, or cabbage and vegetable soup. I think no earlier than 50 days for cabbage; so if you plant some now, you can be enjoying healthy and delicious cabbages by early October and beyond.
Collard greens. I’ve grown collard greens in my garden before; my guess is that now is the time to plant seeds for these, or pick up some plants if that’s easier. According to the reference chart, collard greens mature in 40 to 65 days. So if planted today, one might enjoy some fresh collards with a side of pork and sweet potatoes, for an October harvest meal. I recall that in past years of growing collards, they were found happily living beneath mounds of November and December snow.
Garlic. We messed up our garlic crop this year. We had never planted it before, and my husband tried his hand at it in October, expecting to see garlic scapes popping up this summer. So far we have seen nothing of the sort, and have filled that empty spot in our garden with 4 sunflowers instead. According to our handy chart, garlic should be planted in mid summer with the intention of harvesting one year later in July. Perhaps we should take another gander at garlic using this approach.
Kale. Kale, like its cousin, collard greens, takes somewhere between 40 days and 2 months to mature. This is another one that I have delightedly spotted poking its ruffled leaves out from beneath the snow drifts in our January back yard. I think ours even lived through an entire winter, and we ended up destroying it in spring because we didn’t know what else to do with the plant. Kale is wonderful for you, and gaining popularity among the masses. Plant some now, for a September crop that just goes the distance. I like to make a hearty kale soup with potatoes, garlic, and kidney beans. Add a little sausage for extra depth!
Radishes. Supposedly you can keep getting radishes until the soil freezes over, which could be well into the colder part of winter. I have yet to grow radishes myself, but that doesn’t mean you can’t and enjoy them in your salads and what-have-you. Plant some radishes now if you’d like to begin eating them in mid September.
Swiss chard. We love Swiss chard! However, there’s been such an abundance of this easy-to-grow vegetable, that I dare say we may skip it for the fall bumper crop. If you haven’t tried Swiss chard, it’s one of the most nutritious vegetables, and tastes very much like spinach. Your chard seeds, if sown in the ground today, will yield bright, ruffled and ready-to-eat leaves (and tasty stalks in a rainbow of colors – pink, red, white, orange – depends on the variety) in 40 to 60 days – so, again, September. It may last through the first frost, but I don’t recall my chard being able to hold its own with the collards or kale into the winter freeze.
Turnips. Turnips are yummy and take 50 to 60 days to mature. They will withstand light frost. I don’t know much else about turnips, so try your luck at planting some and let us know what happens!