Summer Planting Tips for Veggies

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Squash - an ideal summer crop

The most fundamental way to keep your garden productive all season is to keep planting. But planting summer replacements for spring crops sounds easier than it is! Just as the spring planting season is complicated by cold, summer planting is often aggravated by dry conditions, high temperatures, and searing sun.

Over the years I’ve picked up a number of simple yet nifty tips to help get veggies up in a hurry when summer is working against you. Many of these techniques are crop-specific, so I’ll list them that way, in the order you might use them in your garden. This week I’ll cover veggies that often are planted in July from direct-sown seeds. In my next blog I’ll address transplanting fall vegetables into hot summer soil.

Growing Fall Beans and Cucurbits

Shall we begin with beans? In many climates there is still time to grow a fast crop of bush snap beans, which germinate best for me when I plant them in V-shaped furrows about 3 inches (8 cm) deep. Using the hose turned on at low pressure, I flood the bottom of the furrow, sow dry seeds on the mud, and then cover with one inch (3cm) of soil. After another light watering, I place boards over the planted runs, which are held aloft by the sides of the furrows. A few days later, when the first seeds germinate, I remove the boards.

Using boards to aid summer germination of beans
Cover beans with boards to aid germination in summer

This method promotes strong germination of bean seeds by maintaining steady soil moisture and temperature. And, because the soil between the planted rows usually stays dry, not many weeds grow there. Here I should mention that seed soaking is bad for beans. Bean seeds can be injured by soaking for only a few hours in water, because oxygen starvation in a flooded environment damages the embryos. It’s much better to plant dry bean seeds into a well-moistened furrow or bed.

Seed soaking does improve the germination of peas and members of the cucumber family that are planted in warm soil. Soaking seeds of cucumber, melon and squash overnight is a very old practice indeed. Over 2000 years ago Theophrastis wrote of soaking seeds of cucumber in milk, but water is quite sufficient. I always try to slip in small summer plantings of squash and cucumbers, which come up in two to three days when the seeds are plumped up with water before they go into the ground. To counteract baking sun, I often cover each seeded spot with an upturned flowerpot or small cardboard box for a couple of days, or until the sprouts push through to the surface. I go ahead and spread a mulch (usually grass clippings) while the pots are present, because they keep the mulch off the little seedlings.

Soaked seeds
Soak squash family seeds to improve germination

Nurse Crops for Summer Plantings

I have previously written on the benefits of buckwheat, but forgot to mention its value as a nurse crop for beets, carrots, and other vegetables that are direct-seeded in hot weather. When sown between rows of buckwheat, germinating seeds are sheltered from the sun and face little competition from weeds. The buckwheat is gradually pulled out, leaving behind a well-established stand of new fall veggies. You also can set out seedlings amongst a nurse crop of buckwheat or bush beans (another good summertime nurse crop). In my opinion, empty beds that are awaiting seedlings of cabbage family crops are crying out for a nurse crop of buckwheat.

Buckwheat sown alongside beet seeds
Buckwheat can be used as a nurse crop to shelter other seedlings
Buckwheat used to aid germination of beet seeds

Years ago, when I was struggling to get carrot seeds to germinate in the middle of summer, an experienced friend said "No problem, just water the bed five times a day." I don’t have time for that, and I’ve found that a sun-blocking blanket works better anyway. After seeding carrots in space vacated by peas, I water well and cover the bed with a double thickness of burlap, but any type of thick cloth will do. Thus covered, beds seeded with carrots, rutabagas and other crops that need a head start stay cool and moist with only once daily watering.

By Barbara Pleasant

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Show Comments


"Is this a good time to start seed for Peas and Brocilli. We live in Everett Wa. Should I start them inside or right in the ground. Ant ideas."
Vicky Marler on Saturday 9 July 2011
"one older expert from calif says to pour boiling water on carrot seeds and they will germinate quickly....havent tried yet but will next year...i have used burlap to cover carrot seeds and had great success...tu"
ROY WILLMOND on Sunday 10 July 2011
"Vicki, much depends on how good your soil is, and where you live. Peas always do best sown in the ground, but broccoli often gets off to a better start indoors. There may not be time to start broccoli from seed unless you live in Zones 7 or 8 in the US. In cooler climates, buy seedlings as soon as you find them, and give them attentive care until you set them out. In your climate you can probaby grow overwintering broccoli; see the fall garden catalog listings at Territorial Seeds ("
Barbara Pleasant on Sunday 10 July 2011
"brilliant article. thank you."
Moot on Sunday 10 July 2011
"Awesome advice! Thanks Growveg team! I love that your posts are so time relevant for my garden!"
Kimberly on Monday 11 July 2011
"I simply can't grow squash with any success. The bugs get to them and get in the vines, I think. I got two immature winter squash before the vine went to pot. Please help. I have good soil. I live in zone 7 North West Marietta, Ga"
Loyce Kompar on Friday 15 July 2011
"Loyce, your best bet with spring-planted squash is to use row covers to protect the plants until they start blooming. Tulle (wedding net) looks better than rowcover and works great. Also, try planting a second crop in the next week or so. Squash pests have natural enemies that are much more numerous in late summer. "
Barbara Pleasant on Friday 15 July 2011
"Hi Thanks for all the good ideas. I have a question. My pumpkin that I've been careful watching got to be about 6 inches in diameter it was smooth, yellow and perfectly firm and round. This morning it was cracked open like the insides grew too big for the skin. What do you think happened? Thanks. "
Mary on Saturday 16 July 2011
"Mary, did the plant suddenly receive a lot of water following a dry spell? That's the main reason why pumpkins crack like that. Or a very tall racoon could have dropped it on her way out of the garden. Just a guess."
Barbara Pleasant on Saturday 16 July 2011
"Back to the pumpkins for s moment. I've been carefully watching my pumpkin grow. Yesterday it was about 7 inches in diameter, yellow smooth and firm. When I saw this AM the skin was split Sll around it like the insides out grew it. Any thoughts on what happened. What a disappontment. Thanks Mary "
Mary on Sunday 17 July 2011
"Barbara, when you plant your buckwheat as a nurse crop, do you let it grow very closely to the vegetable seedling? Do you let the buckwheat grow thick? If you do, I guess you don't use (dead) mulch and just use the buckwheat as living mulch, right? I've got three inches of straw mulch on my raised bed because I can't keep the top two inches of soil moist in this heat wave, even with my slow drip irrigation. The water dribbles right past the dry soil towards the lower soil, and never gets the top inch moist, even if I drip for an hour. So I was wondering if I could seed out the buckwheat under the straw. My soil is made of only wood/leaf compost, a variety of manure composts, and a humus-plus-unnamed-compost mix. I think I'm going to work some of our clay soils into it. And maybe some coconut husk (coir) granules I found at the pet store, to be used in terrariums. That stuff reabsorbs water so easily after being left to go bone dry time and time again.... unlike peat moss."
Sylvia B. in Dallas, TX on Friday 5 August 2011
"Sylvia, if you part the mulch to expose only a little soil and plant buckwheat in the furrow, it should work. Also consider using a shade cover of lightweight cloth pinned to stakes or hoops. It really helps. When using buckwheat as a nurse crop, I envision where the crop plants will go, and sow buckwheat at least a hand's distance from there. The roots of buckwheat are quite shallow, so pulling out the young plants causes little disturbance...I agree that part of your problem is not enough real soil. More clay will greatly increase your soil's ability to hold moisture."
Barbara Pleasant on Saturday 6 August 2011
"Re: the pumpkin. .. That's exactly what happened. I was away 5 days while back east the weather was 100++ when I returned I generously watered my garden. Won't do that again. Have to admit tho, that cracked open roasted pumpkin really tasted good. Thanks for the tip"
Mary on Monday 8 August 2011
"Thank you so very much for the response, Barbara!"
Sylvia B. on Monday 8 August 2011
"I'm a novice veggie gardener so I apologise for my lack of knowledge - have been using the SFG method on the planner which says for Sweetcorn 4 plants/seeds are allowed. The seed packet I have (Early Extra Honey Sweet F1) says seeds need to be planted 25cm apart - therefore by my calculation I can only plant 1 seed in each sq foot - hence there seems to be a disconnect. What am I missing - can someone help ?"
Maria on Wednesday 10 August 2011
"Square Foot Gardening uses a very specific method of deep raised beds filled with particularly nutrient- and moisture-rich soil which give the roots more room downwards. That's why the SFG people say you can get 4 sweetcorn plants per square foot. You may wish to change it to 1 per square foot if your garden doesn't meet the tight SFG specifications (see this article for details: You can change the number of plants per square foot in the Garden Planner by editing the 'default variety' for the plant as shown in this video:"
Jeremy Dore on Wednesday 10 August 2011
"Thanks Jeremy !"
Maria on Wednesday 10 August 2011

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