Take your pick.
There’s the usual gardening calendar. There’s the Farmers’ Almanac. There’s the National Weather Service’s long-term forecast. And then there’s that knowledgeable lady up the street whose tomatoes every year are the size of cantaloupes.
Lest we forget, there are sweats, heat hives, sore bunions and rain foretelling arthritic joints. And with the dog star Sirius (Alpha Canis Majoris) already overhead, the Dog Days are hosting soaring temps and smothering humidity.
All signs of serious summer something. But here’s some rare agreement in our lives: These signs mostly agree that there’s plenty of gardening time left to enjoy.
In fact, now is when to plant the next wave of veggies for your Garden 2.0.
Have another round of indeterminate tomatoes — and pick another variety. The bell is now ringing for round two of green beans. And it’s time for the cabbage, collards and kale for the fall and winter.
It’s also no surprise that YouTube abounds with videos touting hot weather garden choices: peas, beans, chard, kale, spinach in the shade and more ‘maters.
There’s sometime another bonus for successive second and even third plantings. You might discover that you’ll not only get another round of produce, but the invasions of egg-laying, larvae spawning, plant chomping bugs may have past … maybe.
And while most big box stores have pulled seeds from their shelves, there are still some stores that have packets for sale. Read those seed packs carefully and note what they say about planting in Zone 7B and days to harvest.
Online seed companies are a great go-to option for all kind of seeds without having to scour shelves for your choices. But many popular veggie seeds have sold out. So shop hard.
Johnny’s Seeds website is a great resource, especially for heirloom varieties and bulk amounts. And Ace Hardware stores generally have seed packets and sometimes bulk seeds throughout the season.
Sprouting seedlings can be a bit tricky with temps so high. Many horticulturists suggest planting in a moist medium and keeping them out of hot sunlight. With warm daytime temps, sprouting seeds would tend to get zapped by heat.
They also don’t need light until they form their second set of leaves. Then allow limited time in direct sun and gradually increase that time to harden the seedlings before planting outside. With frequent watering, seeds can be planted directly in garden beds that get a lot of sun. But remember, the heat can be withering without constant attention to tender young plants. Planting seeds a little deeper can help with germination in hotter soil.
While tomatoes are the heart throb of most American gardeners, beans are widely considered the most special. Tomatoes — sweet and tart, raw or cooked — are usually fleeting after a bumper crop. Unless you have canning equipment, ‘maters are only a summer specialty.
But legumes, beans and peas, are easily frozen, canned or dried for much longer-term storage. A large percentage of their nutrients is preserved as well.
Beans provide fiber, protein, carbohydrate, B vitamins, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc and phosphorous, according to nutritional researchers. Legumes are naturally low in fat, are practically free of saturated fat, and because they are plant foods, they are cholesterol-free as well.
American Diabetes Association researchers found that one serving of legumes, which is one-half cup, provides about 115 calories, 20 grams of carbs, 7-to-9 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein, and 1 gram of fat. Legumes also are low on the glycemic index.
So, choose green beans, rattlesnake beans, English peas, crowder peas, black-eyed peas or even sugar pod peas.
Planting methods are easy and straight-forward, but there are timeless tips that have proved efficient.
Old school gardeners would soak seeds before planting to aid germination.
According to the Gardening Know How website (www.gardeningknowhow.com), soaking seeds before planting can significantly decrease the amount of time it takes for a seed to germinate.
“Mother Nature is not kind to a little seed. In the wild, a seed can expect to encounter harsh heat and cold, very wet or dry conditions and may even need to survive the acid-filled digestive tract of an animal,” an article on the website said.
“In short, seeds have developed over millions of years with defenses to survive awful conditions. But in your modern-day garden, a seed is relatively pampered. Soaking seeds before planting helps you to break down the seed’s natural defenses against what it expects from Mother Nature.”
Seeds also have a natural inclination to help them know when they should grow. Moisture plays a role in triggering a seed to grow at optimal times. Some types of seeds actually contain germination inhibitors designed to prevent germination inside the fruit.
“These inhibitors must be leached away before a seed can germinate. In nature with natural rainfall, this process can take some time. But when you soak your seeds, this process is sped up,” the article said.
• Take a small bowl and fill it with water from your tap, as hot as your tap will allow which is safest for most seeds.
• Once your bowl is filled with hot water, place your seeds inside the bowl, then allow the seeds to stay in the water as it cools down.
• Only soak most seeds for 12 to 24 hours and no more than 48 hours.
• The benefit of soaking seeds before planting is that your germination time will be reduced, which means you can have happy, growing plants faster.
Beans and other large seeds noticeably swell once soaked. Then they’re ready to plant.
Consider staggering green bean plantings two weeks apart for several weeks, said Robert Westerfield, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
“This will allow for fresh harvest for the entire planting season. A few 10- to 15-foot rows should keep you in supply for most of the summer. Bush beans are a little easier to plant than pole beans, as they do not need any type of structural support,” Westerfield wrote in Extension News in May 2020.
He reminds to harvest vegetables as soon as they are ripe. “Leaving them on the vine too long will lead to disease and insect problems and will cause crops such as beans, okra, squash and cucumbers to be over-mature and terminate or stop producing.
“Both yellow squash and zucchini are fast-developing plants that will continue to produce as long as they stay healthy,” he said.
He also likes to stagger these plantings every few weeks to keep a young crop coming. “Three to four hills of squash at each planting should be about right to sustain your evening meals.”
Greg Jones is a certified Douglas County Master Gardener Extension Volunteer. He is a member of the Douglas County Master Gardeners and enjoys planting, harvesting and eating vegetables, herbs and fruit. Additional information/publications on gardening can be found at the University of Georgia’s Extension website, http://extension.uga.edu/ In addition, the local UGA Douglas County Extension office is available to assist. firstname.lastname@example.org or 770-920-7224.