There's still time to get your vegetable crops planted to enjoy fresh produce well into the fall.

Vegetable gardens make for fresh cuisine

Plant now for bountiful, homegrown produce you can enjoy for months.

Finally, it looks like spring is here and even though it’s July, there’s still time to plant lots of food crops and enjoy those delicious summer flavours.

Even if you just have containers, it’s fun to plant a salad garden with lettuce, especially the wonderful blends of ‘Simply Salad’, cherry tomatoes like ‘Tumbler’ and cucumbers like the burpless and bush types. By using transplants, particularly the bigger ones in pots, you’ll be surprised how quickly you will be enjoying your own fresh produce.

Peppers are playing a far larger role in our cuisine these days, and there are lots of bigger potted ones available for quick and lasting crops.  Today, the trend is towards hot peppers, and they produce far more quickly than the bell types.  New ‘hotties’ like ‘Chenzo’ and ‘Loco’ produce colourful bite-sized fruits that will certainly spice up any Asian, Spanish or Mexican culinary creation. They thrive in the ground or in containers, as do all peppers.

Did you know the average Canadian eats 73 lbs. (33 kg.) of potatoes each year? We all know how great fresh potatoes taste, especially ones from your own garden.  If you can still find some seed potatoes, planting them is still okay.

For summer crops of all the brassicas, like kale, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, transplants are available. Make sure you get the midseason and late varieties for the best quality and check that the transplants are fresh and vegetative, not old and hard looking. It’s the last call for brussel sprouts to ensure you’ll get them for winter and Christmas dinners. Feed all brassicas with something like a 20-20-20 or 15-30-15 fertilizer to get them off to a fast start.

Beans love the heat and whether you plant them as seeds or better yet at this late date, as transplants, you’ll be surprised how quickly they’ll grow and provide wonderful tender beans this fall. If you’re space challenged, pole beans produce well in limited room.

Leafy crops, like swiss chard and spinach, will grow like weeds now.  ‘New Zealand’ spinach is the most heat tolerant, and climbing ‘Malabar’ spinach loves the heat and will grow amazingly fast up anything you provide for this vigorous vine.

Speaking of vines, sweet potatoes must have heat for success, and if you can find them, they are a wonderful addition to your fall and winter culinary delights.

Root crops, like carrots, beets, parsnips and turnips, can all go in now for late summer and fall harvest.

Peas love cool weather, but the heat resistant ‘Wanda’ pea and the sugar snap types are the best summer varieties.

Everbearing strawberries and raspberries, planted now, will start producing in just a few weeks and will continue all summer long, even when planted in containers.  Potted rhubarb, grapes, currants, blueberries, gooseberries and thornless blackberries can be set out now for a taste this year and great production for years to come.

With summer here, there is still time to have a great garden.  So let’s get growing and enjoying the fresh flavours of summer in our own gardens and containers.

Brian Minter is a master gardener who operates Minter Gardens in Chilliwack.

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