The Vegetable Garden in Summer is typically the most productive time of the year. For those of us in the cooler climates, its the time to get stuck into the warmer season crops that just won't grow well in Spring and Autumn. Even if you're in a warmer area, the best approach is to get most crops planted in early summer to ensure that they are established well enough to cope with the hotter temperatures. The key to success with most of the beds is consistent and even watering (allowing for weather variations), mulching and good soil preparation.
The Legume Bed
My Summer vegetable garden always includes a Legume bed and this continues on from Spring with both bush and climbing beans as the temperatures are warmer and the plants flourish. This year we are again growing three types of bean, a Dwarf Bush Bean and two climbers, a green bean and Purple King for a bit of colour. The beds were given a light dressing of fertiliser (chicken manure), a good dose of potash (to boost flowering) and due to the unseasonal wet weather, the watering has been more than sufficient. The bush beans started producing within weeks and the climbing beans, which seemed to just sit for ages doing nothing inspiring, have suddenly taken off and are wrapping tendrils around the support frame as they begin to climb.
The Root Crop Beds
The root bed in the Summer vegetable garden is set up with successive sowings of our favorites :- Carrots - both large and baby, Beetroot - for pickling and roasting, Radish - for that quick growing, peppery crunch to salads and parsnips which need quite some time in the ground for winter roasting. Remember NEVER buy root vegetables as seedlingsas they will surely bolt to seed when divided up from the punnet and planted out. Always sow seed direct. The key here is to ensure the seed bed doesn't dry out. We create a drill in the soil, sow the seed, top dress it with seed raising mix and water well. Then, to help ensure it doesn't dry out in Summer, place a fence paling on top (not a treated pine one). This will keep the soil moist. After a few days, carefully lift it to check for germination.
The Leaf Crops Bed
Our main Summer leaf crops in the vegetable garden are Lettuce, Corn (which is technically a grass) and this year Broccoli and Cauliflowers. I don't normally bother with the Brassicas in Summer as I can't be bothered fighting the White Moth caterpillars that always seem to invade, but this year we have extra seed and it seemed a waste to throw it out (as it was expiring) so we planted up one of the raised Colorbond corrugated iron beds we had in stock with the seedlings. Any heads that we don't manage to eat ourselves can always go to the market stall Brassicas are heavy feeders, so give them a side dressing of chicken manure or alternatively, make a fertiliser tea and water them generously with it We seem to have found a new favorite when it comes to lettuce crops, the Misticanza mixed lettuce. They are always sown direct, thrive and give a good mix of different lettuce types. We just don't bother with head lettuce any more, particularly that bland supermarket staple, the iceburg. Sow successive plantings 2-3 weeks apart. Even though this is a picking lettuce, where the main plant remains as you harvest leaves, the seed is supplied in such quantities, is prolific and vigorous, we just keep sowing and get stuck in. The odd plant that bolts in summer ends up with either the chickens or the pigs.
The corn crop is usually planted in amongst the pumpkins, but we had some spare space, so these are in their own (well half shared) bed elsewhere. Remember, PLENTY of food and good consistent watering are essential for great corn cobs, especially when the cobs are forming. Have a look at the Corn planting guide here.
The Curbit/Pumpkin Bed
Summer sees the Cucurbits really get into their stride. The Zucchinis are now if full production. The growth of these vegetables is truly amazing with them seemingly turning from just that little bit too small one day to mammoth marrows the next. This years crop for us is a multi planting of an Italian striped variety, or Zucchino striato d'Italia. One of my favorite things with this variety is that when cooked, the zucchini is much more resistant to turning to mush like most varieties do and their striping looks great on the plate! The pumpkins this year are Sweet Grey. Like most, they spread like wildfire, so once you have enough fruit set, pinch out the ends of the runners to control the spreading and concentrate the plants energy into growing nice fat pumpkins for yourself. We have three cucumber varieties in, the ever popular lebanese variety, long slim continental and apple cucumbers. All of which have started the climb up the support wire, getting themselves above the persistent invasion from Pumpkin tendrils.