WHEN, in the heat of July, your lettuce bolts, your peas plateau, and your broccoli bites the dust, why leave their beds empty? Here at A Garden for the House, where vegetable-growing is more necessity than hobby, I always replace my faded spring crops with these fast-growing, heat-loving (or at least heat-tolerant) veggies which will feed me during winter (click photos to enlarge):
Cucumbers. These take only 52 days from seed to harvest. Pictured up top, ‘National Pickling,’ an open-pollinated variety, is prepared to climb the bamboo tee-pee trellis now that my peas are about to be pulled. Most of the cukes will be turned into Super-Easy Refrigerator Pickles.
Green Beans. I’ve replaced a bed of recently-bolted romaine with green beans, sowing the seeds at 2 week intervals to insure a steady harvest. Most varieties, including the lavender-flowered heirloom ‘Triumphe De Farcy’ (above), are ready for picking in 48 days. My method for freezing beans.
Beets. These are fast-growing, too, the edible greens ready to snipping in only 25-30 days. The bulbs below mature in 59 days. Don’t snip all of the greens, or bulbs won’t develop. Above, my now-finished frisee has been replaced with the high-yielding ‘Detroit Supreme’ beet, which grows especially well in my zone 5-b climate.
Carrots. Plant these in mid-July, and you’ll have a great storage crop by mid-September (75 days). Carrots are unique in that they will continue to grow until the ground freezes. I often leave half of mine in the garden through winter, and then harvest these extra-sweet treats during the first thaw in March. I planted ‘Garden King Hybrid’ carrots (above) after my oak-leaf lettuce received new quarters in the compost bin.
Swiss Chard. What a great replacement-crop; only 60 days to delicious, antioxidant-rich greens. And it doesn’t faint in the summer heat. I blanch the tender greens and add them to my favorite quiche.
Broccoli. If your spring-planted broccoli was a disaster like mine — all leaves, no heads — you can certainly start a fall crop in mid- or even late-July. Don’t plant in the same location as your old crop, or you might invite pest problems. Plan 55 days from seedling to harvest.
And I should probably mention all the unsold pepper, squash, and tomato plants that garden centers practically give away in July. All these are worth planting now, I think, especially if the plants have started to bloom. I recently purchased, from my local farm store, 6 perfectly healthy ‘Ace’ bell pepper plants for a dollar each. The store was glad to recoup some of its investment, the plants were grateful to be rescued from their plastic-pot-prisons, and I’m happy to have this surplus fruit for making and freezing piperade.
In any event, if you rely on your summer veggie garden to get you through the winter months — and I certainly do — be sure to replace your finished crops with fresh ones. After all, food-growing real estate is precious for most of us. Why let even one square foot go to waste?
Have you already pulled the plug on your spring crops? I’d love to hear what you plan to replace them with.
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