By Joshua Burman Thayer
Illustration by Charmaine Koehler-lodge
As the solstice sails on by, and your tomatoes, basil, peppers, melons, and zucchini come into their full summer swagger, it’s prime time to assess your garden for open spaces and unused corners where you might be able to get a new crop established before diminishing sunlight starts to slow the pace of the growing season.
It may seem like a radical idea, but by making room to replant in midsummer, you are investing in an abundant fall. Look for the gaps and unused portions of your garden where you can sow seeds directly. With midsummer warmth and long hours of sunshine, the seeds can quickly sprout and reach full height to offer ripe abundance. The following plants will charge up passively. All you need to do is assess, sow, and perhaps stake some of the plants once they get tall.
Italian Pole Beans: I plant these three times in succession between April and October to maximize the use of my raised beds.
Mexican Bush Bean: Shorter than its Italian cousin, the Mexican bush bean is wonderful as a side-patch crop for dried bean collecting in fall. Try seeding them six inches apart and soak the patch four times per week.
Sugar Snap Peas: Although peas are regarded as a winter and spring crop, I plant them nearly year-round. The trick in midsummer is to utilize the mixed, dappled shade cast by trees and shrubs. I can get a small “grove” of peas to sprout and reach maturity in the summer heat, but I make sure to assess soil moisture daily to pull this off.
Fava: The above three stars can be incorporated into your midsummer garden to grow, trellis, and yield by the time your last tomatoes are ripening. Fava then becomes the all-important ground cover to sow as you transition into your fall garden. As you yank a spent corn or tomato plant, sow some fava in its place. It serves as a placeholder of sorts in the soil structure and provides copious amounts of biomass to keep your soil alive and productive. ♦
Permaculture designer and educator Joshua Burman Thayer is the author of a new book, Food Forests for First Timers. A regular contributor to Edible East Bay and Mother Earth News, he offers valuable gardening advice monthly in Edible East Bay’s e-newsletter (subscribe here). Learn more about Joshua’s work at nativesungardens.com, and follow him on Twitter @nativesungarden.