What Can I Plant Now?

June 15, 2017

We had some wonderful conversations with fellow gardeners during the Sustainable Backyard Tour this past weekend. Aside from recommending natives and flowering herbs to pair with all the great vegetables people have been planting, another topic that came up was having enough time to grow the things we want in the garden. Sometimes time slips away so quickly that it seems the opportunity to plant certain items has come and gone, fleeting with that sweet spring we had. What many people don’t realize is that in Saint Louis – and especially Saint Louis City – it’s not too late to plant.

OK, OK. Some plants prefer cooler weather than we’re getting into now. Brussels sprouts, cilantro, lettuce and ranunculus quickly fade when temperatures creep into the 90s. But there are plenty of summer crops that will still produce a great crop for you in the heat. If you have cucumbers, squash or even beans plagued by bad bugs, a good “fake out” technique is to wait a month or so after your usual planting date, and they may have perished or moved elsewhere earlier because your crops were not ready and waiting for them when they emerged.

Here’s a list of some of our favorites to be late with:

  • Summer squash, cucumbers (see why above)
  • Bush beans – succession-plant a row every few days for two weeks, to be picking beans continuously into late summer or early autumn
  • Sunflowers – the seeds are also a good source of food for birds in late summer and early autumn
  • Tomatoes (medium and smaller) – beefsteak or large tomatoes will also grow but may not give you as many tomatoes before a killing frost, while medium and cherry tomatoes will easily give you lots of fruit before the season ends
  • Many herbs including borage, basil, rosemary, lavender, oregano, thyme, and mint
  • Native plants (already established in starter pots) like echinacea purpurea, black-eyed susan, and mountain mint. They might not flower as much this year but will happily settle in
  • Dahlias – I waited until about this time last year to plant my dahlias for cutting, and even in part sun they still put on a show for me by late summer and continued until the first hard frost
  • Okra
  • Zinnias and cosmos

Here are a few tips for planting in the heat of summer:

  • If it’s possible to plant just before a stint of cooler weather or rain showers are forecasted, these conditions can help foster young seeds and plants to get started in an otherwise hot environment – and save you from having to water quite as much near the beginning
  • Try a drip hose system or irrigation for areas that are further from your water source, or get the most sun/heat
  • Make sure to feed plants and their soil with compost and/or organic fertilizer on a regular schedule. (This is also a good task to do just before rain is forecasted)
  • Water especially when plants are first beginning to flower and set fruit. Stress during this period can cause stunted growth not yet visible, and makes the plant vulnerable to pests and diseases
  • For heavy producers like bush beans, or “cut and come again” flowers: make sure to harvest or deadhead plants regularly to encourage new growth – otherwise the plant focuses on making seed instead of more veggies or flowers for you
  • Watch out for sales at garden centers, especially big box stores. If you have a good sense of a specific plant’s life cycle and how to baby it along, you can find some great deals. If not – you can spend a decent amount of money and time on plants that are already goners. Side note here – perennial bushes and trees are better left to be planted in fall, not now
  • Work / water in the morning if at all possible. Watering in the morning will give plants’ leaves a chance to dry out during the day. With our high humidity in Saint Louis, early evening watering is a possibility but not a great situation if your area is prone to foliar diseases like powdery mildew

Now – clear that space or containers for your plants and get ready to harvest! Our long Saint Louis summers are good for something. 😉