The dog days of summer are approaching, and there is much to do in the garden. Gardening is a great activity to get in daily exercise, clear one’s mind after a long day of work, grow nutritious food and just be at peace in nature. When taking care of your plants and enjoying the outdoors, remember to take care of yourself. Intense summer heat can quickly lead to dehydration. Drink plenty of water while gardening, wear a hat and sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s rays and take small breaks, especially if you have a large garden. Adding a bench or a lawn chair to the garden area will remind you to sit back, relax and take a break from the heat.
Many crops are harvested and planted in June, July and August. See the notes below on gardening in June, July and August.
In mid-June, plant a summer crop of heat-set tomatoes. Planting heat-set tomatoes is VERY important. These cultivars have been bred to set fruit during high nighttime temperatures, whereas other cultivars will not. If managed correctly, heat-set tomatoes will produce fruit through October. Preferred varieties include Florida 91, Solar set, Sun Master, Phoenix and others. Heat-set tomatoes can be planted again in late July for fall tomato production.
Collard greens, cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, okra, southern peas, pumpkins and summer squash can all be direct seeded into the garden during June. Start transplants of eggplants, peppers and sweet potato slips during June as well.
Transplant a fall crop of heat-set tomatoes and bell peppers. Seed okra, southern peas, cucumbers, squash, cantaloupe, pumpkins and watermelons throughout July. Early to mid-July is the optimum time to plant pumpkins for harvest close to Halloween!
Late July/early August is a good time to start thinking about your fall garden. Order broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, cabbage and collard green seeds. If you want an early September planting of these crops, start seed in seedling trays in early August. A greenhouse is not necessary to grow these crops this time of year. However, daily watering is a must. You need at least a 5-to-6-week window from planting seeds of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage and cabbage to transplanting them into the garden.
Plant bush snap and bush lima beans in the garden. You can also plant seed trays of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, cabbage, cucumbers, squash, mustard greens, and shallot sets for an early fall garden start in September.
You can transplant broccoli and Brussels sprouts as early as mid-August in the garden. In north Louisiana, start your lettuce seed and plant beet and Irish potato seed in the garden.
In late August, south Louisiana gardeners can start their lettuce seed and plant beet and Irish potato seed into the garden.
Broccoli and cauliflower. Both can be direct-seeded beginning mid-July through September or transplanted from early August through early September. It takes four to six weeks to produce transplants from seed. In general, broccoli and cauliflower will require 5 to 6 pounds (or pints) of a complete fertilizer such as 8-24-24 or 13-13-13 per 100 feet of row. These crops, especially cauliflower, require fast, continuous growth for proper head development. Keep them well watered and fertilized. Sidedress plants with 1.5 pounds (3 cups) of calcium nitrate per 100 feet of row three weeks after transplanting and again two weeks after that. Varieties that will produce in about 60 days from transplanting reduce the chance of cold-weather damage. Recommended varieties are:
Snap beans. Late August through early September is the best time to plant snap beans. Normally 50 to 55 days are required from planting until harvest. Water beans often. Good varieties are Provider, Roma II, Derby, Bronco, Royal Burgundy, Green Crop, Strike and Caprice. For a yellow wax bean, choose Golden Rod Wax. Bush beans usually will produce more successfully than pole beans during the fall because of their earlier maturity.
Lima beans. This crop is harder than snap beans to produce during fall. Plant early enough to produce before frost and late enough so they’re not blooming while temperatures are too high for fruit set. Plant from early August through about mid-August. Plant bush beans for fall production – Henderson, Thorogreen, Jackson Wonder or Dixie Butterpea.
Irish potatoes. Plant small whole potatoes saved from the spring crop from mid-August to early September. Good soil moisture is essential. The seed potatoes may not sprout readily after planting because of a physiological rest period of about 90 days they have to go through after spring harvest. After this rest period is satisfied, the tubers should sprout. Fall yields are lower than spring yields. Use the smaller potatoes that you harvested for seed pieces.
Cabbage. Plant seed in mid-July and continue to seed through September. You also may transplant beginning in early August through mid-October. Fertilize the same as broccoli and cauliflower. Space cabbage, cauliflower and Chinese cabbage about 12 to 16 inches apart and broccoli 12 inches apart. Double drill (two drills of plants spaced 10-12 inches apart on a single row) will help maximize yield.
Squash and cucumbers. These two crops can be planted in June, July and August. Summer plantings normally will be ready to begin harvesting after about six weeks. Yields usually are lower than spring plantings. A fall crop of yellow summer squash, zucchini and cucumbers can be grown by planting seed during August. Squash vine borers may be a more severe problem during fall than spring, so be prepared to control them with an insecticide or use floating row covers until the plants start to bloom. After they bloom, remove covers to allow pollinators to visit crops. Viruses are a problem during fall. The best cucumber to plant is Dasher II.
Pumpkins. Pumpkins for Halloween should be planted early to mid-July. Apply 3-5 pounds of a complete fertilizer (13-13-13) for every 100 feet of row before planting. Plant five to six seed in hills about 4 to 5 feet apart on rows 6 to 8 feet apart. Thin to one or two plants per hill. Apply a sidedressing of 2 pounds of calcium or potassium nitrate per 100 feet of row when vines begin to run. Keep soil moist for best production. Orange Smoothie, Cinderella, Silver Moon and Conestoga are excellent varieties to grow for Halloween. Recommended varieties of giant pumpkins are Atlantic Giant and Prize Winner; however, remember that Louisiana is hot and humid, which makes growing pumpkins difficult. Don’t fret if you do not reach award-winning sizes. WATCH for worms and spray routinely once they appear!
Greens. Begin planting greens – mustards, turnips and collards – during August. Keep the soil moist to ensure a good stand. If the greens aren’t sprouting, you might have a lot of clay in the soil. This can form a hard crust. If this happens, reseed and lightly cover seed with a fresh potting mix. Doing so will allow tender seedling to break through the soil.
Shallots. Dry sets of shallots can be planted from August to April. About 50 to 60 days after planting, tops will be ready to harvest.
Fall bell peppers. If plants from the spring are still in good condition, they can be nursed (sprayed or dusted and watered) throughout summer. They will set fruit again as the temperatures become more favorable. If seeds of bell peppers haven’t been planted by early June, buy transplants.
Fall tomatoes. Transplant fall tomatoes during July. Be prepared to spray with insecticides and fungicides. Insect and disease pressure usually is worse during fall than spring. The heat-set varieties that have produced well in trials are Sun Leaper, Florida 91, Sun Master, Solar Fire, Sun Chaser, Phoenix, Solar Set and Heat Wave II. These varieties have the ability to set some fruit during times of high temperatures, allowing the fruit to mature before cool weather. Row covers, which protect the plants from the first frost, have prolonged the harvest period, and they enhance fruit maturity. Also worth trying during fall is BHN 216. Because fall tomatoes are a crop you can’t really be sure of, it’s interesting to try several early varieties. Certain varieties may produce better in some parts of the state than others because of the variation in climate and soils. Start early and get a strong bush.
Lettuce. Lettuce is really hard to grow in summer. Waiting until fall is ideal. But if you must plant lettuce in August, plant it thick and harvest early. Allowing lettuce to grow until mature size oftentimes ends up in bitter bolted lettuce. Recommended varieties of head lettuce are Ithaca and Mavrick. For leaf lettuce, try Slobolt, Red Salad Bowl, Grand Rapids, Red Fire, Tango, Red Sails, Salad Bowl, Sunset, Simpson or Elite. The recommended romaine lettuce varieties are Parris Island, Ideal, Green Forest and Green Towers. For butterhead or bibb lettuce, try Buttercrunch, Esmerelda or Oak Leaf. For batavia types (leaf lettuce with a unique flavor), try Nevada or Sierra.