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July 11, 2014 at 3:01 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

4 Perfect Mid-Summer Vegetables for Novice Gardeners and Expert Procrastinators

By Becky from SLN More Blogs by This Author

Full disclosure: I am by no means an expert gardener.

The extent of my experience with plants is maintaining three small indoor plants and the occasional snipping of my mom’s cilantro. However, I’ve managed not to kill them in the last year, so I think that counts for something. Needless to say, I don’t have a green thumb. If I do, it’s a very, very pale shade of green.

On the other hand, I’m a pretty good procrastinator. People that know me as responsible might be surprised to see the amount of work that I get done in the 24-hour period that precedes a deadline. I hate to admit it, but I’ve become a “save it for the last minute” kind of person.

If anything in the last two paragraphs resonated with you, I have good news.

It’s not hard or too late to start your own vegetable garden.

Online resources tell me that the following vegetables are easy to grow and perfectly fine for a late summer planting. (I know it’s only mid-July, but that means August and the end of summer are right around the corner...)

So, fellow novice gardeners and expert procrastinators, shall we get started? (From one procrastinator to another: today — maybe tomorrow — would be best. However, you can get away with putting off some of the planting for another couple of weeks.)

Carrots

Arguably the most popular vegetable, carrots are healthy, tasty, and easy to care for. Plant the seeds ½ inch deep in loose, stone-free soil and ½ inch apart. A raised bed in full sun is ideal for carrot growing, though they do tolerate light shade; adding mulch to keep the soil cool is advised. Ideal soil temperature is 60-70°F, but anywhere in the 50-85°F range will work.

Keep the soil continuously moist for best germination, but be careful to water gently to avoid washing the seeds away. Sprouts usually take 1-3 weeks to emerge. Thinning and weeding is critical for carrots. Thin 1-4 inch spacings before the carrot tops reach a height of 2 inches. Tips on thinning can be found hereBegin picking carrots when they are big enough to eat, gently pulling them with your hands to avoid bruising the roots.

Fun fact: The first orange carrots probably developed in the Netherlands around 1600. Other color varieties include white, yellow, crimson, and purple.

Beans

Considered the ideal plant and favorite crop for home vegetable gardens, beans grow with little care and will produce an abundant crop. They grow in a wide range of climates, typically doing best when the air temperature is between 70°F and 80°F. Beans are divided into two categories: bush beans and pole beans. Pole beans may take a little longer to grow than bush beans (50-67 days rather than 50-55 days) and require more thinning (6 inches versus 4 inches), but they typically produce three times more pods than bush beans.

For both varieties, plant the seeds in a planting bed with loose soil, placing the seeds 1 inch deep and 2-4 inches apart. Water deeply at least once a week to avoid dry soil during the germination period (7 days for bush beans, 14 days for pole beans) and when the plants are about to blossom. Adding mulch after the seedlings emerge will conserve moisture, reduce weeds, and keep the soil cool in the summer heat. Pick the beans when they reach the size of a pencil. Pinch or cut the tender beans, careful to avoid uprooting the plants. Frequent picking of the beans (almost daily or at least twice a week) will encourage further bean growth and will result in optimal production.

Fun fact: There are hundreds of bean varieties, including Kentucky Wonder, Scarlet Runner, Kwintus, Goldencrop Wax, King of the Garden, and Black Turtle.

Cucumbers

This tropical vegetable is great whether served fresh, pickled, or in a stir fry. Cucumbers grow fast, don’t require a lot of care, and are plentiful. Depending on how many seeds you plant, prepare to have an abundance of cucumbers — try some of these recipes and share with your neighbors.

Cucumbers come in two forms: vining cucumbers and bush cucumbers. Vining cucumbers require the use of wire, fencing, or a trellis for the vines to climb, but will typically produce more fruit than the bush cucumber. Bush cucumbers are better for growing in containers or small spaces and are also more resistant to disease.

Plant seedlings 36-60 inches apart, depending on the variety and available space. Cucumbers need warm (70-80°F), fertile soil that stays moist. The fruit might be small and bitter tasting if not given enough water; an inch of water per week is recommended. Harvest the cucumbers whenever they’re big enough to use — they grow quickly, so check frequently.

Fun fact: Lemon cucumbers look like… lemons! They even have a faint citrus flavor.

Peas

Peas thrive in cool weather, so procrastination might have cost you. Nevertheless, peas are good to plant in August and will produce a moderate fall harvest — you’ll just have to nurse the seedlings through the summer heat with shade and diligent watering. (This extra work is not a big deal. As a procrastinator, you should be used to this.) Other than that, peas need little attention.

For a fall harvest, cover the seeds with two inches of soil. Plant the peas close together to decrease weeds, keep the soil cool, increase harvest, and save space. Water deeply once a week when the plants begin to bloom, always keeping the soil slightly moist. Mulch will help keep the soil moist and cool, resulting in happy pea plants. Another way to keep your peas happy is to plant them with their cucumber friends — the two grow well together (and both do well with a trellis).

Harvest your pods when they are round and bright green in color. Pick them carefully, using one hand to hold the vine and the other to carefully pinch off the pods. Pick the pods every other day to keep the plant producing, and remove pods that have passed their prime.

Fun fact: Peas are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world, dating back to the Bronze Age.

There you have it. Four easy-to-grow vegetables that are perfect for novice gardeners and expert procrastinators alike.

Plus, you’ll have a fresh, homegrown supply of healthy food to munch on. Sounds good to me!

Sources:

bonnieplants.com: Growing Cucumbers

burpee.com: All About Peas

gardening.cornell.edu: Growing Guide

lifehacker.com: The Seven Easiest Vegetables to Grow for Beginner Gardeners

motherearthnews.com: All About Growing Beans

organicgardening.com: Beans: A Growing Guide

organicgardening.com: Carrots: A Growing Guide

organicgardening.com: Cucumbers Reconsidered

ufseeds.com: What to Plant Now

Photo Credit:

Alasam@flickr

Janice@flickr

JeremyKeith@flickr

JonRowley@flickr

RebeccaKohn@flickr

ToddAllison@flickr

WilliamPitcher@flickr


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