For most of my gardening life I thought that gardening happened in April and May when you sow your seeds and plant your summer vegetable crops and then you spend the rest of summer battling weeds. But as I've encountered more serious vegetable gardeners I've been doing more second season planting in the garden. Whether you call it second season sowing or succession planting, you should plant a second crop of vegetables in summer. Yes, there are seeds to sow in summer for a fall harvest.
The trick with planting seeds starting in July for a fall harvest for gardeners in Zones 4-6 is to give your plants some breathing room from your first frost. As a general rule, two weeks are added to the date to maturity on the seed packet. This will account for the lower light and cooler temperatures of late summer and early fall where plants are growing slower. But many vegetable gardeners in Chicago that I've encountered have pointed out that greens like Swiss chard and kale will taste better when they're lightly kissed by frost.
Peas are another good crop to plant in summer to harvest in the summer. You can also sow bush beans until late July and get a pretty decent crop.
Dill, cilantro, spinach, leaf lettuce, arugula and parsley seeds can be sowed from mid July through August. The variety pictured above is 'Forest Green' parsley, which I think is superior in looks and taste to flat leaf parsley. One thing you'll notice with your succession planting is that plants, like lettuce, will have larger than normal leaves. This is because when the light levels drop plant grow larger leaves to capture more light.
Mid to late July is also a good time to sow some more basil if your basil started flowering and is tasting a little bitter. Take this opportunity to plant more basil for pesto, or plant some of the more aromatic varieties of basil so you can experiment in the kitchen with making infusions, drinks and candy.
In mid July, sow seeds for broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, and Brussels sprouts. You can also plant another round of root crops like radishes, parsnips, carrots, and beets.
When the colder temperatures hit you can protect your fall harvest by covering the plants at night with blankets from your home and frost blankets they sell at the garden center. If you enjoy succession planting and getting another crop of edibles from your garden in the fall, you can also build cold frames and hoop houses over your raised beds.
If, like me, you have always been a summer gardener, give second season gardening a chance. I have found that I stress a lot less about the garden in spring when I know I have a second chance of growing a lot of things at the end of summer. Even if you don't plant a second season vegetable garden this year, I encourage you to visit some urban and rural farms and see what they're planting for the fall in your area for ideas for yourself. I have learned so much about vegetable gardening in late summer from talking to people who garden for production and sales.
What are you seeds to sow in summer for a fall vegetable harvest?