During the extreme heat and humidity of summer, it’s everything we can do to keep the garden watered, the weeds pulled and the zucchini picked. And even though I already have my hands full with my summer garden, there’s a little voice in my head that’s telling me it’s time to start planning and planting more. Yes, it’s time to think about fall crops, and to consider squeezing in another round of summer plants.
One thing many home gardeners don’t think to do is plant a second crop of summer vegetables. Certain vegetables are quick to mature, especially when the soil is warm, making it possible to get another good harvest out of the garden. Of course, there are a few crops that aren’t eligible, but you’d be surprised at how many are.
Beans, cucumbers, squash, zucchini and corn are all warm-weather crops that can easily give us a second round of harvest. This method of succession planting is similar to how local farmers keep hefty harvests throughout the growing season with staggered crops. But because home gardeners usually have small or limited space, replanting as soon as one crop is done is sufficient.
When choosing to plant a second round of summer vegetables from seed, keep in mind the “days to maturity.” All seed packets will give an average timeline from seed to harvest, which is important to consider when doing late plantings. Make sure that what you plant will mature before first frost, which is usually mid- to late October in the North Carolina Piedmont.
This past week, one of my zucchini plants succumbed to borers. After a month of harvest, this didn’t hurt my feelings, as I was starting to get a little tired of it. So I raked out the area, added a little compost and planted a few pole bean seeds. They’ll sprout quickly in the warm soil, and I’ll easily trellis them on a large wire cage.
Of course, I could have just as easily planted more zucchini. Any type of summer squash can still be planted now, as these plants take only 50 to 60 days from seed to harvest. One good idea is to plant a different type of summer squash, to give a little variety. Try a bicolor such as Zephyr or a pattypan (scallop) squash. It’s fun how summer squash can be so diverse.
Most bush beans and pole beans mature within 70 days, so most varieties are safe to be planted.
Cucumbers are also a good choice for a succession crop, especially if you like to can and preserve them. Cucumbers are so diverse for canning, and they can be pickled in numerous ways.
Corn can be successfully grown in a second round, but it must be timed right. From seed, sweet corn matures in anywhere from 70 to 90 days, depending on the variety, so take this into consideration when choosing your seed.
Okra is also a good choice for succession planting or as a late crop, as it only takes 60 days to mature. I’ve found that if I plant my okra in late May, I’m harvesting from mid-July through frost. It doesn’t make sense for me to plant more in my small garden, but for other gardeners, it is a good choice to fill a hole after something has passed its prime.
When you’re trying to double dip on your summer crops, don’t forget the herbs. Anytime a spot becomes available in your garden, pop in another basil or parsley.
Parsley will overwinter nicely, it can be easily transplanted as needed, and it’s such a staple in the kitchen. Basil is one of the greatest joys of the summer garden, so I’m of the opinion that you can never have too much.
In our area, the best time to plant cool weather fall crops is August. If planting second crops of summer vegetables, be sure to leave room for any fall crops. Fall crops do best when started in warm soil and allowed to come into maturity as the temperatures drop.
Leafy greens such as collards, kale, bok choy and mustard are usually seed-sown mid- to late August. Transplants such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli take a little bit more time, and can be planted early to mid-August.
Radishes are quick and easy, and do well when planted anytime in August. Root crops such as turnips, carrots and kohlrabi are good to plant late July through August.
Getting the timing just right with your garden harvests is both a joy and challenge. Being able to double dip on certain summer crops is a fantastic way to get the most out of your cultivated space, and makes for a very productive patch of earth.