It’s rally time! During the last month of summer you may be feeling a little tired, or maybe just a little tired of the garden (you’ll want to keep that to yourself). Entering garden vacation mode can be tempting, but a couple of months down the road you’ll be wishing you had more of your own veggies to work with in the kitchen. The summer harvest provides an abundance of colors for impressing the dinner guest. Why would you want to turn into a boring chef in the fall months? It’s easy to settle for mashed potatoes or butternut squash as your go-with-everything side. Try something else — something to make the eyeballs dance as much as the taste buds. Plant these showy crops in the late summer for a colorful dinner plate in the fall.
Golden Beets are perfect for people with a beetaphobia. More mellow in flavor than the red guys, these golden charmers have all the health benefits we love about beets. Beets can can be direct-seeded into the garden bed, or you can put a few seeds in a 4″ pot. Transplant the pot into the bed. Transplanting is a great way to get a head start on the weeds.
Recipe: Spicy Roasted Golden Beets
Watermelon Radishes are noticeably sweeter than regular radishes. Chefs are always asking me for these beauties — unfortunately there is a narrow planting window . Where the red-skinned radishes can be planted at any time during the season, the watermelon radish can only be planted in late summer or early fall. If you try to grow these in spring/summer, they will bolt and have very poor texture and flavor. To preserve the vibrant colors of these radishes, they are best served raw.
Purple Haze Carrots are the prize in the carrot family. A 2006 All American Selections winner, Purple Haze is a sweet-flavored show on a fresh veggie platter, or a visual and sweetness upgrade to a cooked carrot dish. Like the watermelon radish, these carrots lose some of the bold coloring when cooked. In containers or beds, even moisture and a well tilled soil are the keys to success when growing carrots. Carrots do not transplant well, so you’ll have to direct seed them into your beds or pots. Try using vermiculite as a seed cover to help keep the seeds from drying out before germination.
Buying your seed is best done on the internet. Unfortunately, your local garden center probably doesn’t carry seeds for late season planting. Try looking at Johnnyseeds.com, territorialseed.com, and highmowingseeds.com for high-quality seed sources. For ease of planting, buy pelleted seeds when available. Late summer planting can make your recipes more interesting and nutritious for months to come — don’t give up now.