Many gardeners think that because summer is winding down its too late to start warm weather veggies. In this blog post I am going share why a late summer garden with warm weather veggies may work for you, and how to know if you have time in the season to start one. I’ll also share what, how, and where to plant to get your late summer garden off to a quick start.
Why a late summer garden?
Many of the tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and other warm weather veggies you planted in the spring might be winding down and past their peak. They might be looking a bit worn by the heat of summer or diseases that have crept in to your garden. However, as gardeners, we have a constant itch to grow something and have fresh, tasty, healthy food to eat
Planting a late summer crop of new, strong plants will give you veggies to harvest into the fall and even into the winter months, if you live in a warm southern climate like I do.
If you live in the southern hemisphere, spring is just around the corner, this can be the start to your spring garden of warm weather veggies.
How to know if you have time in the growing season?
The key is to know the first date your location usually gets a frost. If you don’t know your first frost date, you can find it on the Farmer’s Almanac frost date calculator for US and Canada. Just enter your zip code and it will give you the approximate date for your area.
What to plant?
You’ve got your first frost date, now what? Once you have that date, the key is to choose veggie varieties that you have time to grow from seed to harvest before they are killed off by a frost, or damaged by cold.
For example, I am growing a Red Racer Tomato, a 2018 All America Selections Winner (more about this later). This tomato plant is a quick producer, and goes from transplant to harvest in about 57 days. This means that if I transplant a seedling the middle of August, and my first frost date is October 15th, in about 60 days, I will be able to get a nice tomato harvest before it is killed off or damaged by frost.
The summer growing season is coming to a close for many gardeners. Although I grow year round here in So Cal, the weather will start to get cooler in a the late fall. In my late summer garden, since the time is short – I want a harvest quick, before the weather turns cold. Because of this, I’ve chosen quick producing, top performing varieties that are All America Selections Winners.
All America Selections (AAS) is an organization that has been around since the 1930’s. Its mission is to promote new, top performing garden varieties. These new garden varieties go through a series of impartial trials where they are grown and assessed against other similar varieties (that are already on the market) at trial gardens all across north America.
The new varieties that perform best in the trial gardens are deemed winners and receive the title All America Selections Winner.
The varieties I am growing are all AAS Winners, compact varieties, that can be grown in container or in ground. These varieties are quick producers, so I’ll have plenty to harvest before cooler weather hits.
AAS winning varieties I am growing
Start your late summer garden the supplies you have on hand – but if you need seeds, following are the AAS winners I am growing and a bit about each.
Red Racer Tomato – 2018 AAS winner
The Red Racer Tomatoe is a gorgeous red, cocktail tomato that produces clusters of red, cocktail sized tomato, (larger than a cherry tomato). This is a determinate tomato (produces all at once, then the plant dies), a compact plant (3 feet tall), and goes from seed to harvest in 90 days. Because it is a brand new AAS winner, seeds are not yet available.
Pretty n Sweet Pepper is a bright multi-colored compact ornamental sweet pepper. It looks beautiful in the garden and tastes great too! Pretty n Sweet grows about 18” high, doesn’t need staking and goes from seed to harvest 100 days. This “ornamedible” pepper makes a perfect late summer planting for southern gardeners who have a bit more time left in their growing season.
The Patio Baby Eggplant produces deep purple fruit that is 1-2 inches in size. This prolific producer is compact, and a perfect container plant. It is thornless, and goes from seed to harvest in 75-85 days – earlier than most eggplant.
How can you go wrong with a name like Pick a Bushel? Both Pick a bushel and the Parisian Gherkin are compact plants that produce small, crisp, and sweet cucumbers that are perfect for pickling or fresh eating.
These quick producers go from seed to harvest in 50 days. WOW – I’ll be harvesting these before I know it!
This is a sweet variety of basil with silvery green leaves and is slower to produce flowers than other varieties. (Flowering often causes the basil leaves to turn bitter.) Not only are the leaves super tasty, but the green foliage and sturdy branches make it a beautiful landscape plant as well.
I’m including flowers in my late summer garden – it’s important to keep the pollinators around so my veggies produce! Zinnias are one of my favorite flowers, and I can’t wait til the Red Profusion Zinnias bloom. These are a compact zinnia – they grow in a mounded shape – 8-14 inches high, and are disease resistant. They have true vibrant red color, a 2 inch flower that will last until frost and will remain true red, and not fade, even in the summer heat.
How to get off to a quick start to a late summer garden
I got off to a quick start with my late summer garden by starting seeds in indoors in peat pellets on a heat mat using indoor grow lights. This provides a more controlled environment so that the seedlings grow stronger faster and I can get them outside in my garden as soon as possible.
Where I am planting
My garden is full vegetables that have been growing since spring – where to plant? I am growing my late summer garden in a Smart Pots 8 foot Big Bag Long (BBBL) container. It is easy to pop up, fill with soil (I’m using Good Dirt) and gives me an extra 11 feet of growing space! It also comes in a 6 and 12 foot length, and fits perfectly up against my backyard fence, which will shelter the veggies once the weather does turn cold here in Southern California.
If you are growing a late summer garden, make sure to check out All America Selections for more information about their winners and where to purchase seeds. You’ll love growing these top producing varieties in your garden!
If you’re a northern gardener and don’t have enough time left in the growing season to grow warm weather veggies, no worries. I’ll also be doing a series on cool weather veggies – some will even tolerate some frost. Stay tuned!
Watch the video from my YouTube channel, “Grow a Late Summer Garden” so you can see exactly how to get yours started! ,I will be doing update videos as my late summer garden grows and as I harvest, so please subscribe to my YouTube channel so you get notified when I post an update.
Comment below, let me know if you’ll be growing a late summer garden with me with me!
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