It’s Not Too Late to Plant a “Procrastination Garden,” Just in Time for Summer

published Jun 3, 2024
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Starting a garden is a massive commitment. From preparing the soil to planting seedlings and caring for your new plants, this popular warm-weather hobby comes with a long to-do list. And if you haven’t started by June, you might think summer crops are out of reach. Thankfully, there are plenty of options left if you’re late to planting.

“Gardeners should rewrite the narrative around being too late to plant crops,” says Arianna Iappini, a garden designer and expert behind The Birch Arbor Gardens. While she acknowledges certain crops require precise timing, Iappini also says that “there are loads of plants that can be sown in staggered succession all season long for a continued harvest.” 

As I’ve learned from experience as a gardener myself, you can start with certain plants as late as June and still enjoy a lengthy (and productive!) growing season. Even if you’ve procrastinated your summer planting, you can still get the satisfaction and meditative relaxation of tending to a bountiful garden. Check out which crops the pros say you can plant in early to mid-June for a garden that will start blooming as early as July.

How to Prep for Your June Garden

Getting a late start on your garden means preparation is key — and you’ll start from the ground up. “If I could give late-season gardeners one piece of advice, it would be to focus on your soil,” says Angela Judd, a certified master gardener, author of How to Grow Your Own Food: A Beginners Guide to Container Gardening, and creator of Growing in the Garden

The pros recommend starting a late-season garden in beds, containers, or pots, as you’ll have more control over your soil composition and can ensure you have a nutrient-dense mix that will have your late-to-the-party plants thriving in no time. “Plants grow best and quickest in nutrient-rich soil, so start with a quality mix and amend with compost before planting,” Judd says. “If you’re worried about cold temperatures sneaking in at the end of your growing season, plant in pots so you can bring them to a sheltered location,” she adds. 

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Garden Vegetables to Plant in June

Summer Lettuce (Approximate days until the first harvest: 30): “Summer lettuces, like butterhead or summer crisp varietals, are excellent candidates for succession sowing,” Iappini says. Succession sowing refers to planting a new row of seeds every few weeks so your plant matures at a staggered rate. “Just remember to add 3 to 6 inches of high-quality, well-aged compost to each bed when replanting a newly harvested area of your garden bed,” she adds.

Tomatoes and Peppers (Approximate days until the first harvest: 49 to 55): Although these popular picks are best transplanted instead of seeded late in the season, they establish themselves quickly and grow productively through the heat of the summer. “For tomatoes, skip the larger beefsteak varieties, as they take longer to ripen than medium-size and cherry tomatoes,” suggests Kyle Hagerty, the expert creator behind Urban Farmstead. “Cherry tomatoes thrive in the heat and have plenty of time to set lots of fruit — even in a short season,” he adds. Other fast-producing tomato varietals include Black Cherry, Early Doll, Fourth of July, Roma, and Sungold. For peppers, try shishito, early jalapeño, habanero, or lunch-box varieties. 

Beets (Approximate days until the first harvest: 50): While you don’t typically think of root vegetables as a summer crop, Judd says beets are among the easiest plants to start late in the season. “As long as you give beets rich soil and lots of moisture, they will grow quickly,” she says, adding that their ability to grow into the cooler fall season also extends their life in your garden. Another perk? “You can harvest and enjoy the beet greens as they are growing,” Judd says. You can start picking leaves once the plants are around 6 inches tall — just make sure not to take more than one or two leaves per plant so the beet itself can still grow successfully. 

Bush Beans (Approximate days until the first harvest: 50): “Bush beans are easy to grow from seed, quick to establish, and ready to harvest in as little as 50 days,” Judd says. Heat-tolerant varieties (like the “desperado” bush bean) are compact and will take up very little space in your garden while producing all season long. For the fastest results, Judd suggests buying a seed pack that touts the fewest “days to harvest” as possible. 

Carrots (Approximate days until the first harvest: 65): As long as you plant them no later than mid-July, carrots can be a great addition to your summer garden. “Warmer temps may mean the seeds dry out quicker and are hard to germinate,” Judd says. To help prevent drying out, she suggests putting burlap over the seeds to hold in the moisture until they germinate. 

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Flowers to Plant in June

Calendula (Approximate days until the first blooms: 50): “Quick-growing flowers like calendula are wonderful and colorful additions for the fashionably late gardener,” Iappini says. “I look forward to growing calendula not only for its beauty in the garden but also its usefulness in making tea and healing salves.” Additionally, these easy-growers love full sunlight and attract pollinators, which will help the rest of your garden thrive. 

Marigold (Approximate days until the first blooms: 50): Marigolds love warm summer days and often bloom within just a few weeks of planting. They can be succession planted throughout the season for a constant supply of orange-yellow blooms. The best part? Marigolds are known as the “protector” of the garden, drawing in helpful pollinators and attracting bugs like hoverflies, ladybugs, and parasitic wasps that will help control your pest population. 

Zinnias (Approximate days until the first blooms: 60): These colorful and easy-to-grow blooms (they thrive on neglect!) are built for summer weather. Direct seeding the plants in June will result in late summer blooms; you can even succession plant the flowers again in August to enjoy their bounty throughout fall (until your first frost). 

Cosmos (Approximate days until the first blooms: 60): Like zinnias, cosmos will weather a bit of neglect and will grow quickly, often sprouting from seed in as little as one week, according to Judd. The plants will bloom early to mid-August and continue throughout your first frost. 

Sunflowers (Approximate days until the first blooms: 60): These bright blooms love the hot temps! And getting a late start won’t slow you down — Judd says certain varieties can bloom as soon as 60 days after planting. For a happy addition to your garden, look for a more compact varietal, like the tiger-eye hybrid sunflower, which will mature quickly and put more of its energy into producing blooms instead of adding height (a single plant can produce up to eight 5-inch-tall flowers). 

Bonus! Herbs to Plant in June 

Herbs are an untapped category that will leave any gardener feeling very accomplished. Many varieties of herbs love the heat of summer and can be grown and harvested in quick succession (30 to 45 days from planting) for a successful bounty all season long. “Basil especially is extremely fast-growing and prolific,” Hagerty says. “Harvest from the top by pinching off the tips of each branch above a leaf node, which encourages branching so the plant grows with a bushing shape, allowing it to shade itself and produce large amounts of delicious leaves,” he adds. Other popular and successful summer herbs include mint, chives, cilantro, dill, and rosemary.