Whether you are new to growing, or a seasoned gardener, you may never have considered what to plant in summer. Planting in spring and tending to those same plants all season long is a very conventional approach to gardening. In spring, it’s exciting to get back out into the garden after being inside all winter. But by the time summer rolls around, those beautiful buds of spring may not be quite so vibrant anymore. Flowers that enjoyed the cool temperatures of spring start looking tired and your early season vegetables have probably exhausted themselves.
Not to worry. There are plenty of flowers and vegetables you can plant in summer that will bring new life to your garden. Summer is the perfect time to replace more delicate annual plants with some colorful options that can handle the heat. With ground temperatures nice and warm, there’s still time for planting vegetable transplants or starting seeds for a cool-season fall harvest. You can revive the excitement of starting fresh plants in the spring and give your garden a whole new look at the same time.
Six of the Best Flowers to Plant in Summer
These cheerful flowers will lure birds, bees and butterflies to your garden. Cosmos blooms throughout the summer and into fall.
With so many varieties in so many colors, hydrangea is a perfect summer flower. It’s also a great choice if you like to make cut bouquets from your garden. Bring some to a friend for a delightful nosegay.
This tall beauty is an icon of summer. The large blooms of sunflowers are stuffed with seeds that attract songbirds. At the end of the growing season, sunflower seeds can be harvested and roasted and the flowers look beautiful in a cut arrangement.
Dahlias can be purchased as a plant or as a tuber, which is handled like a bulb but looks very different. These prolific bloomers come in many colors, bloom all summer and, since Dahlias are tender perennials, the tubers can be lifted in the fall and stored to replant the next year.
Known and loved for its distinct floral scent, lavender is a favorite perennial in many parts of the world. Since it flowers from late spring into late summer, it makes a perfect summer garden plant. Used as a border plant, lavender makes a stunning hedgerow.
Also known as English marigold or pot marigold, calendula grows quite easily from seeds. These prolific bloomers actually thrive in cool temperatures. Starting them from seed in summer will result in flowers well into fall. If you established plants in spring, pruning or pinching off dead flowers in summer will promote continual growth and a flush of fall flowers.
Six of the Best Vegetables to Plant in Summer
By July most vegetables that prefer cool temperatures are done but you can plan for a second harvest in the fall. Midsummer is the ideal time to start fresh crops of leaf lettuce, kale, radishes, cabbage, beets, broccoli and peas for fall harvesting. Seedlings will do well in the warm soil of summer and the plants will mature during the cooler weather they prefer in the fall.
Note that the term “days to maturity (or harvest)” noted on seed packets is an estimate to help the gardener determine the amount of time needed for a plant to produce a harvest. The actual time can vary from season to season, depending on weather conditions.
Included here are typical times to harvest, but check the seed packet for a more specific time frame. Some gardeners begin the count on the day they plant the seeds and some begin the count when they see the seedling emerge. Either way, it’s not an exact science. If you live in a region with a short growing season, choose dwarf varieties or those that reach their mature size earlier. For example, patio tomatoes take less time to mature than beefsteak tomatoes. Choosing the right variety can expand your options for plants that can be planted in summer and still harvested by frost.
Tomatoes have long been a favorite vegetable in the summer garden. There are many varieties and they are easy to grow in the ground or in containers. Plus, they add a rich, earthy smell to your garden. Tomato plants grow tall, so you will need a tomato cage to support the plant, especially with the weight of all the fruit. You can begin to harvest many types of tomatoes in 60 to 75 days.
2. Pole Beans
Pole beans are named such because they grow tall, so you will need poles, a tomato cage, or some other support for the plant. Seeds are sown directly in the soil and will be ready for harvest in 60 to 75 days. Harvest pole beans when they are firm but before the beans inside are bulging.
Cucumbers are a favorite to plant in summer because there are so many uses for them. If you will be making pickles, be sure to get pickling cukes. To grow well, they need to be pollinated, so it’s helpful to have flowering plants nearby that will attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. Most varieties will be ready to harvest in 55 to 75 days.
From sweet and mild to spicy and hot, there is a pepper for every taste. Many pepper plants grow tall, so plan for a stake or cage to support the plant. Whether you start plants from seed or buy them from the garden center, once transplanted, you should be able to harvest peppers in 56 to 70 days.
5. Summer squash
Also known as zucchini, summer squash is a great veggie to plant in a summer garden. Since squash roots are delicate, sow the seeds directly in the garden. You may want to stagger your plantings so you can have a steady harvest. Summer squash will usually be ready to harvest in 50-60 days.
Watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe (also known as muskmelon) are great to plant in succession for a steady supply of fresh fruit. Most of these melons will take 90 to 100 days to mature, so planting in mid- to late summer will yield a crop in the fall.
Watering Plants in Summer
Proper watering is essential for getting new summer plantings off to a good start. It’s also important for keeping existing plants thriving through periods of high heat or summer drought. We have tips to help make sure your plants are getting the right amount of water when they need it in our article, Ways to Water Your Garden.