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It's not too late to start your garden!

Why you should still start your vegetable garden this summer...

photo of a small orange pumpkin on a vine. It's growing in a raised bed, you can see some of the wood of the bed behind the pumpkin.

Wait, what do you mean 'still start', isn't summer when you garden? Harvest those crops? Yes, exactly. Harvest those crops that take six week, eight weeks, three months to grow and be ready...

So you really should have started your garden in March if you wanted to be pulling those veggies out the ground now.

Whoops! Didn't think about that did you? Just got visions of 'gardening' with a full vegetable garden and harvesting all those juicy carrots and strawberries in your cute summer hat. Right?

photo of different vegetables freshly harvested laying on a white wooden outdoor table. Harvest includes small round courgette/zucchini, a bell pepper, red curly kale, some French beans, a small orange pumpkin, a a leaf of cavallo nero kale and two small cucumbers.

Hate to break it to you but that's not how that works. Like we said, you should have started by the end of Winter to slowly start to see some of the main harvests come along.

Now, that doesn't mean you can't still get started!

Please note: all info below is for anyone gardening in zone 8 or similar zones. If you're in a warmer climate you will be able to start your gardening season again in the Fall.

Benefits to starting your garden this summer

  • You will see results more quickly. Seeds don't take as long to germinate as they do when the weather is cool.
  • No risk of plant damage by frost or temperatures that are just too cold. No need to wonder if it's a good time to plant out your tomatoes or whether you should wait. Get those plants in the ground!
  • No need to start your seeds indoors. Starting seeds indoors is great to get a head start in Spring. In fact, it's necessary for a good harvest in our opinion. It's also a serious pain in the back. Mould, bugs, too dry, too wet, plants that are ready to be planted out and then the weather takes a downturn....

Things to consider when planting your garden in the summer

You will have to buy plants for certain things.

In early summer, you can still get hold of tomato plants, beans, courgettes... It's too late in the year to try to grow these from seed.

Plants may be more prone to drying out.

When planted later in the season, they won't have the root system yet to search for water. Keep an eye on your plants and water when needed.

Plants are more likely to bolt.

Bolting means a plant develops seed heads. You'll see one spike shoot up out of the main plant with a broccoli-like flower head. Plants bold more quickly in warm weather, some when too dry as well.

For some plants like Swiss chard and kales, you can remove the shoots once you see them and they will produce some more leaves. These plants won't bolt quickly though and they will mostly bolt in their second year.

It's vegetables like radishes and lettuces that will bolt more quickly.

The smaller, the faster. Spinach is another typical one. Don't try to grow these vegetables in the midst of Summer. They will bolt. You can try and grow these in a shaded area though. If the plants get only morning and evening sun, they will stay cooler and not bolt as quickly.

For these small vegetables removing the shoot doesn't help, once they bolt the radish will start to become quite woody and less pleasant to eat. Do check this before throwing your harvest in the composting bin, they might still be very yummy!

Gardening with water restrictions and during drought

We're in Belgium. Things are _interesting_ when it comes to water to say the least. We've noticed our plants drying out much faster the last two-three years than ever before.

While there are local issues at hand (people wanting a basement in an area with high ground-water levels and being allowed to pump the whole neighbourhood dry to install them), we've also had very little rain and warmer temperatures.

There aren't any quick fixes for this issue and anyone gardening in areas that are just starting to experience these issues will have to start to learn about solutions.

Here are some thoughts and things we'll be implementing in the coming weeks.  

Plants growing together create a micro climate.

The leaves of different green-leaved plants together will create their own micro climate. This means they will keep themselves and their neighbours a bit cooler and more moist. Having plants growing in an area means that tiny little section is less prone to drying out.

Don't leave * any * bare soil.

Uncovered soil will dry out much sooner than mulched soil. Use a good layer of mulch (chopped up pieces of wood). Do this after you have watered well.

Water well!

This means less often but deeper. It's better to use more water less often than a little water every day.

Should we even start looking at reverse gardening techniques like the ones used in warmer climates?

This means your gardening year starts in September and ends in May, rather than the traditional Western European model of the year starting in March and ending in November.

This depends on how mild our winters stay. It could also be worth considering planting methods used in Eastern Europe. Particularly Hungary comes to mind. They've got very cold Winters and very hot Summers with lush harvests done in a short growing season.

In conclusion

photo of round courgette/zucchini on the plant growing in a raised bed

No, it's not too late to start your garden this Summer.

Follow these tips and you will still be able to get a nice harvest in a short while.

If you'd like more guidance on what to grow and how, then check out the Backyard Vegetables guide below. It's an ebook that comes with an email course and a whole years worth of support from us to get your vegetable garden growing.

Sources/further reading

More watering tips can be found at https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=312