The Procrastinator’s Guide to Growing a Summer Garden

The Procrastinator’s Guide to Growing a Summer Garden

Getting a late start in the garden this season? Don’t fret! Even if you've waited until June, there’s still time to grow a robust, bountiful summer garden no matter what zone you’re in or how much (or little) you’ve prepped. For all the procrastinators out there (you’re not alone!), here are some vegetables, flowers and herbs to plant for a summer garden.

Summer Garden Vegetables

Not everyone has the time or space to start seeds indoors. And it’s all good! Certain plants, like beans and greens, can still be direct-sowed in many areas. And in the case of slow-growing staples, like tomatoes, peppers and squash, garden-ready plants are a great way to fill your beds or containers without affecting harvest time.

Here are some suggestions that’ll help ensure you’ll have baskets full of juicy, sun-ripened produce in time for mid-summer barbeques.

  • ‘Fourth of July Hybrid’ tomato: Garden-fresh tomatoes just 49 days from transplanting? It’s possible! This early producer is Burpee’s fastest growing tomato. Transplant garden-ready plants in early June and you’ll be harvesting picturesque vines of bright red, 4-ounce tomatoes all season long. This hybrid is indeterminate, so support is needed.
  • ‘California Wonder’ sweet pepper: A favorite among gardeners since its debut in 1928, this heirloom bell pepper is known for its hearty 4” x 4” peppers — the largest open-pollinated peppers you can buy. Their superb flavor makes them perfect for eating raw, sautéed or stuffed. They freeze well, too.
  • ‘Desperado’ bush bean: Taking just 55 days to reach maturity, this variety is great for gardeners getting a late start. The compact (16-20” tall) and prolific plants are heat-tolerant and produce sweet, tasty 5½" dark-green pods all season long.
  • ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard: Add some color to your garden anytime from now until fall by planting this rainbow chard. Most of the stems will be a vibrant gold, pink or crimson, though don’t be surprised if a few grow to be white and pink striped, orange, scarlet or purple. Pick young to eat raw in salads, or sauté the more mature leaves.

Other summer garden vegetables to consider:

Summer Garden Flowers

Just like vegetables, it’s possible to get beautiful blooms before the end of summer. The selections here will flower this season whether directly sown or transplanted.

  • ‘Tiger Eye Hybrid’ sunflower: These compact, bi-color (yellow and red) beauties are at home basically anywhere in the garden, from borders to containers to the center of a sunny bed. The 24-30” tall plants branch out and can produce up to eight 5” blooms per plant.
  • ‘Landmark Rose Sunrise’ lantana: Hardy, low-maintenance and prolific, this variety of lantana produces showy clusters of pink and yellow flowers all season long. It’s great as a ground cover, makes for an unassuming border or beautifully rounds out a container combination.
  • ‘Strawberry Blonde’ marigold: The pastel blooms on this French marigold will have you saying “oh la la!” The 8-10” mounding plants produce yellow-pink flowers when it’s warmer, and once the weather cools down, they appear a deeper, pink-plum hue.
  • Zinnias: These beauties love the heat, making them a favorite among the procrastinator’s seed stash. Our ‘Forecast’ zinnia produces 2-3” blooms in purple, pink, orange, salmon, yellow and cream. The variety gets its name because it’s well-suited for any weather forecast: wet to dry, super hot to cool. For bolder, jewel-tones (think: fuschia, deep yellow and bright red), try ‘Zesty Mix’ zinnias, which produce beautiful double blooms.  

Other summer garden flowers to consider:

Summer Garden Herbs

If you’re just now getting your herbs in the ground (or pot), it’s best to go with a ready-to-transplant option so you can get cooking right away! Remember: With most herbs, the more you cut them back, the more they’ll grow, so don’t be shy!

  • ‘Genovese’ basil: A must-have in any summer garden, this Italian basil is great for everything from pesto to Caprese salad. Starting with garden-ready plants means you’ll have fresh basil all season long. Trim liberally and often (trim just above a pair of leaves, being sure to leave at least two sets of leaves on the stem) for bushy, robust growth.
  • ‘Pineapple’ mint: With its bright green and yellow variegated leaves, pineapple mint adds a tropical touch to your containers (mint’s a very aggressive grower and best grown in containers).
  • ‘Common’ rosemary: Rosemary is another classic in any kitchen herb garden. While it’s possible from seed, transplanting a garden-ready plant guarantees you’ll be ready when the chicken needs seasoning before it hits the grill.
  • ‘Single Italian’ parsley: This flat-leaved parsley is far more flavorful than its curly-leaved cousins, but just as easy to grow. A great addition to salads, dressings and sauces, parsley is easy-peasy to grow from seed or ready-to-transfer plant, but it’s quick to bolt in warm temps. Be sure to plant it in a pot that you can easily move to the shade on hot days.

Other summer garden herbs to consider:

Check out more easy direct sow vegetables to add to your garden, whether this season or next.

Written by Erin Scottberg

Erin Scottberg is a Brooklyn, New York-based journalist and editor with a deep interest in horticulture, food equity, and low-waste living. She's an avid DIY-er and thrifter and always has a project (or six) going on at home. Erin is pursuing her certification in urban horticulture from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and when she's not writing, she's busy working as a garden designer and educator, or playing with her dog, a rescue named Sunny.

June 9, 2022
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