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Garden while it’s hot


Just where has the growing season gone? This summer has been a challenge, starting out very dry and becoming a deluge. But for those gardeners who love to putter, there’s still lots to do and enjoy in both your flower and vegetable gardens. And pollinators still need nectar on which to feast!

Focus on heat-loving plants

As much as we loved our pansies and sweet peas in the spring, there’s no way those tender blooms would survive the heat of summer (but your pansies may surprise you with a second act in the early fall).

So it’s time to look forward to that first sun-warmed tomato and plump eggplant. Employ mindfulness in your garden, too: Take the time to notice the peppers changing color, and how the beanpods fill out—it’s a great lesson on how amazing nature really is.

Hot tip: Pick ripe produce at its peak. Ripe veggies and fruit require a lot of water from the plant; if you pick as soon as they’re ready, it helps the plant conserve water and nutrients. So do yourself and your plants a favor and, for example, cut your zucchini off the vine when it’s between four and eight inches long, because bigger is not better.

Continuously sow seed for a continuous harvest. Seeds of some vegetables, like beets, broccoli and the aforementioned zucchini, can be planted through the summer. And start up the lettuce bed again; lettuce can be sown from early August to early September. If you’re concerned about heat and sun, shade the lettuce with a lean-to of loose fabric or plant it underneath a cucumber trellis.

Cabbage is another veggie whose seeds can be direct-sown in mid-to-late summer (consider row covers to prevent infestations from ruining your efforts).

Surprisingly, peas can be sown in late summer for a fall harvest—it won’t be as productive as spring-sown peas, but it should be decent.


Say hello to late-summer blooms

Summer will surprise you as a good time to plant flowers, too. Borage, calendula and nasturtiums can all be sown in summer for a late-summer, early-fall display. Sunflowers will begin to bloom eight weeks after sowing, although they won’t get nearly as tall as their full-season counterparts.

Beyond these suggestions, check the bloom times on your seed packets to see if you have time to plant and enjoy even more bounties of color.

Other words of wisdom

Turn your mulch. In an average summer, mulch helps cool the soil and deter weeds. In extended periods of rainy conditions, you run the risk of mold developing in the mulch. So it’s a good idea to aerate around your plants, even if all you do is chip into the mulch and loosen it up with a handheld cultivator or garden fork.

Weed, weed, weed. Weeds have adored all of this rain we’ve had. One benefit of the soggy ground is that it’s easier to pull up those darn weeds. And just think of the workout you’re getting.

Of course, summer is the best time to put your feet up, feel the sun on your face, and sip a tall glass of iced tea. But in between those breaks, take the opportunity to get growing!


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