Keeping a Garden Productive – All Summer Long

Many vegetable plants thrive in the summer months, but many gardeners find it challenging to keep a garden productive through the intense heat of July and August. Here are a few quick tips for keeping a garden productive…all summer long.

1. Keep Harvesting

Many garden vegetables are annual crops — they’re on a mission to set fruit and produce seeds before the season ends. It’s well known that crops such as zucchini, cucumbers, and green beans will slow their production once they have fruit and seeds nearing maturity. The best way to keep these plants productive is to harvest often and regularly. Have a summer trip planned? Get a neighbor to harvest while you’re gone and return to plants still in full swing.

2. Have No Compassion

Vegetables have a finite life span, and unfortunately, sometimes it’s shorter than anticipated. This can be due to pest or disease problems, or sometimes you just have a planting that never established well due to poor seed quality, low soil fertility, or unfavorable weather conditions. And of course, there are just some crops that quickly get past their prime once the heat sets in. But no matter the reason, nursing those crops will rarely bring the bountiful harvest you were hoping for. The best use of these plants is as food for your compost pile! So don’t be afraid to just rip them out of the garden, which has the added benefit of freeing up new space. See tip number 3.

3. Keep Planting

Don’t let the heat fool you…it’s still a good time to plant. Crops such as radishes, arugula, and Chinese broccoli can be sown repeatedly through the summer to keep a steady supply of young, tasty vegetables coming into the kitchen. And crisp fall crops, such as carrots, beets, and rutabagas need to be started soon, too. Try to sow seeds just before a rain, or make sure to stay on top of watering until all of the seeds have germinated.

4. Keep Weeding

Because your garden vegetables are established and growing vigorously this time of year, they now have the competitive advantage over any recently germinated weeds. Letting the weeds get away from you now likely won’t impact the productivity of your vegetables this year, but it will cause more problems for you later — if you let them drop seeds. The easiest way to keep a garden productive (think ahead to future years…) is to simply stay on top of the weeds all summer long.

5. Harvest Early

If you’re taking the time to keep your garden productive all summer long, harvesting early (in the morning) will get you the best return for your work. There are all sorts of post-harvest methods to quickly get the “field-heat” out of summer harvests, but the easiest is to simply avoid harvesting when it’s hot. Vegetables harvested in the morning and brought inside quickly will stay fresher much longer than those harvested in the heat of the day.

About Shanyn Siegel

Shanyn Siegel, former Curator and Seed Bank Manager for Seed Savers Exchange, has worked in sustainable agriculture and horticulture for over 15 years, specializing in organic vegetable gardening and seed conservation. At present, she works with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank and the national Seeds of Success program, the UConn Extension Master Gardener Program, and runs community horticulture programs through her business, Shanyn Siegel Olericulture & Seeds. She coedited The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving and is a recipient of the 2016 American Horticultural Society Book Award. Learn more at: www.shanynsiegel.com.