Vegetable gardeners are at their busiest as late spring blossoms into early summer: There are beds to prepare (amending the soil with organic matter, weeding and smoothing seedbeds) in eager anticipation of the day when the first seeds go into the ground.
Once this initial work has been completed, there’s the excitement of watching the first tiny leaves push up through the soil, but when the growing season really hits its stride, apart from keeping the vegetable patch weed-free and irrigated—as well as regular monitoring for insect and disease pests—Mother Nature pretty much takes over.
Crops like broccoli, cabbage, corn, cucumbers, onions, peppers and tomatoes stay in situ for the entire growing season, but what about the vegetables that have already come and gone—cool season “spring” crops that take around two months to ripen, and then disappear from our gardens for the rest of the year? Well, we’re not prepared to bid them adieu just yet, and there’s no reason you should either. Many cool-season crops can be reseeded once the dog days of summer have passed, producing a bonus second harvest in late summer and autumn that’s just ripe for the picking as the season draws to a close.
Quick tip: Floating row covers not only prevent flying insects from attacking your crops, they also act as a thermal blanket, enabling gardeners to extend the harvest for several weeks.
Easy-to-grow beets do double duty in the vegetable garden—both their roots and leaves are eaten. Largely pest free and frost tolerant, the first crop of beets will already have been harvested by most Canadian gardeners, but these sweet, colourful root vegetables continue to grow well until daytime summer temperatures consistently exceed 27°C.
Once the hottest part of the summer has passed, beets are once again good to go. Like beans, the seed for late summer sowings should be planted deeper (3 centimetres deep rather than 1 centimetre in spring) to avoid hot, dry conditions at the soil surface. Sow your final crop about 55 days before your region’s usual late autumn “hard” or “killing” frost date.
Once the beetroots begin to push above the soil surface, check on the diameter of the root by brushing away the surrounding soil: Beets should be harvested when they’re about 5 centimetres in diameter (larger roots quickly get fibrous and stringy). Use floating row covers or spray with neem to protect plants from occasional leafminer damage.
Disease-resistant beets for late summer sowing (52 to 55 days)
- 'Red Ace'