5 crops to plant in June for a Summer Harvest
Now that summer is here and the days are long and hot, many gardeners think they can no longer add more crops to their garden.
This is a mistake that costs many to miss on opportunities for a longer, more productive season. For most of the United States, spring crop of cabbages, broccoli, mustards, spinach and lettuces have been harvested or have gone to seed. This leaves empty spaces in the garden that can be filled with delicious heat-loving crops that mature fast and can fill your plate in no time.
So, waste no time – and no garden space – and fill those empty spots with those easy, fast-maturing summer crops.
#1 Summer Squash
If you haven’t already, now if the time to plant your Summer Squash. Zucchinis and Patty-Pan squash plants are true heat-loving crops that will germinate and mature fast if planted in June.
With a maturity of 50-65 days depending on the variety, Summer Squash have plenty of time to mature and produce their legendary abundant crops. I never bother with starting my Summer Squash plants indoor: I instead plant them directly in the garden, where they develop strong seedlings and need no acclimation.
From the classic Black Beauty Zucchini to the whimsical Yellow Scallop Summer Squash, there is a choice for every gardener. Children are especially fond of the Patty-Pan types and love to “hunt” for them in the giant plants.
Zucchinis and Patty-Pans alike make for a great side-dish on the grill. Simply cut, baste with olive oil and spices and voila!
My favorite large Zucchini is without doubt the Cocozelle Zucchini, with its fine taste typical of Italian heirlooms, but we also enjoy the Lebanese White Bush Zucchini. There are really no reason not to try one!
Gardener beware here: most Summer Squash crop so heavily that just one or two plants are enough to meet the needs of most families! With so many fruits, one can become overwhelmed fast and it’s likely that your neighbors will also tire of the constant stream of “garden gifts” coming from your garden if you plant too many plants!
June is the ideal time to start your basil plants. This heat-loving, flavor bomb is easy to tuck away in corners of the raised beds, where it will grow with little care. It’s easy to start from seeds the same way you would your lettuce, by barely covering the tiny seeds. The heat and humidity will do the rest!
Of course, you can also start your plants indoors and bring them outside when they are 4 weeks old. If you chose this, be certain to acclimate your plants to the outdoors conditions of mid-summer by placing them in a shaded spot for a few days and bringing them in full sun for incremental periods of time. This might be necessary if you run out of space and want a head-start on your basil crop. I like to start as many plants directly outdoors as possible, but I also start many basil plants indoors in prevision of my next succession planting.
Basil grows fast and the wide range of flavor and colors available to gardeners make for an interesting addition to the garden. It also has a reputation for repelling pests thanks to its strong smell. Many gardeners, myself included, like to grow it alongside their tomato plants, where the shade of the taller plants shield the delicate leaves in the hottest part of the afternoon. Basil also makes a great companion plant to cucumbers, carrots and lettuces.
I like to grow purple leaf varieties like Purple Ruffle Basil to make Purple Lightning Pesto, a pesto so shockingly purple that neither my children nor my guests tire of!
For all my Asian dishes, I grow a lot of Siam Queen basil, with its quintessential licorice taste. Refined and rare varieties like Corsican basil have a strong taste coupled with a more subtle licorice taste than the Thai basil varieties. If you like strong taste and small, dainty plants, then Dwarf Greek Basil is the variety for you. Of course, the classic Italian Large Leaf basil is a must for so many dishes.
Holy Basil, both the Red Leaf Holy Basil and the regular green leaf Holy Basil are also pollinator magnet when in bloom, making them wonderful companion plants.
Basil is also a great choice for those with small spaces as the plants thrive in containers.
A tip: pinch the flowering tips of your basil plants as soon as they appear. This will stimulate the plants into producing more leaves and will increase your basil harvest. Eventually, you might want to allow a few basil plants to go to seed. The pollinators in your garden will be delighted by the tiny, fragrant blooms. Wherever I grow my basil, I also do this and marvel at the number of bumblebees working on the tiny flowers.
Beans, whether the bush or pole varieties, germinate and grow better when the nighttime temperatures stay above 60 F. Always start your beans from seed, directly in the garden! This will save you both time and money as transplants are expensive and totally unnecessary. To plant the large seed, simply push down into well loosened soil up to your second knuckle (about 1 inch) and keep well-watered. The beans will take care of themselves from this point on!
The classic bush bean varieties like Blue Lake Bush Bean, Antiqua Bush Bean or Gold Rush Bush Bean mature and produce a crop in 55-60 days. The tidy, short plants are incredibly productive for their sizes and give high quality crops of delicious snap beans.
Pole varieties take longer to produce, but will give a larger harvest in total and are just as heat-loving as their bush counterparts. They will need a support to grow on and the solutions are many for trellising.
Runner bean like Scarlet Emperor Runner Bean are also ideal to start in June but will take a little longer to mature. They will in turn produce a crop for a longer period of time, up until the first frost.
For those with small spaces or looking to fill empty spots in the garden, choose a bush variety. You’ll be surprised how many fruits are produced in each tidy but sturdy plants!
Tip: keep your snap bean plants picked. Making sure you harvest the immature pods regularly will stimulate the plants into producing more.
Cucumbers are easy to start from seeds and love to be planted in June. Planting them from seeds in place will give the seedlings a healthier start than buying transplants and will also provide the gardeners with more choice.
Simply plant the seeds ½ inch into fertile, well worked soil and keep watered. Although cucumbers love the heat, they tend not to tolerate drought and planting them where they will benefit from some shade during the hottest part of the afternoon will help them stay healthier for longer.
Pickling cucumbers make for a fast crop and the long vines yield abundantly for varieties like the classic Boston Pickling Cucumber or the burpless Muncher Cucumber. Children delight in the whimsical Lemon Cucumber, with round fruits the size and color of lemons, but with delightful cucumber taste.
Long, refined cucumber like the Suyo Long Cucumber are also a good choice for those true cucumber lovers, as the sweet, fine flesh is unparalleled. Their yield might not be as heavy as the pickling varieties, but the high quality fruits make up for this tenfold!
For those with small spaces, SpaceMaster Cucumber offers a great solution. The short vines still need support, but the plants can still thrive in containers or smaller garden beds.
Tip: Cucumbers will crop more heavily if you keep the plants picked. Harvest immature fruits as early as possible to stimulate the plants into producing more.
Okras are an iconic Southern crops that thrives in high heat and humidity. Some people don't like the slight slimy texture of the immature pods, but my family and in particular my children love it. The plants are easy to start from seeds and the seedlings are healthier if grown directly in place, in a full sun location.
The plants grow large and beautiful, with large leaves and a deep, well developed root system. All varieties of Okras love the heat, but my favorite are the Hill Country Red, the Perkins Long Pod and the Star of David.
My children love the slight slimy texture of roasted okra, but they can also be pickled, breaded and fried or used in soups and stews. The plants produce over a long period of time, right up until the first frost and the crop can be abundant, so plan accordingly.
Tip: As with most crops consisting of immature fruits, keep your Okras picked for a heavier harvest. This will stimulate the plants into producing more fruits.
Mid-Summer is a busy time in the garden! There are so many crops one can still plants that have not been listed, such as lettuces, carrots and green onions!
Do you have other choices for crops to plant in June? Let me know in the comments below!