Summer is a good time to plant beets of all colors

July 23, 2014

It is good to be a kid and it is good to be a kid in the summer. Taking his nickname from the children’s rhyme “Old King Cole,” singer Nat “King” Cole said it best with his hit “Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer.”

These hot summer days are perfect for planting everything from quick-growing greens to root crops like carrots and beets. You can fill in the flower garden with potted annuals or fast-growing seeds such as alyssum and calendula.

Get your second summer garden ready by digging it deep and adding compost. Pick a spot that gets at least six hours of full sun each day. Most vegetables do best in neutral garden soil, so try to get your garden soil pH near 6.0-7.0.

You may have to order seeds soon to have them in time for planting.

You can plant bush beans now and have fresh beans in late August or September. Since beans need warm soil to germinate, they often germinate well when planted in July and August. Do not fertilize your beans, but do keep them watered regularly.

Try green beans like Derby that are ready to pick in about 55 days. The flat yellow pods of bush Romano wax beans are also ready in just under two months.

Beets planted now can be thinned in a few weeks. Use the thinnings in stir-fries or steamed for tender baby beets.

Greens may need some protection from the hottest sun, but will grow fast. Try bitter greens that actually have more nutrition than many bland lettuces.

All sorts of kale can be planted now. Lacinato is the famous Italian black kale. Red Russian is a smaller, frilly red-leafed variety.

Don’t limit your root crops to the familiar. Try rutabagas! Rutabagas are a natural cross between a turnip and a cabbage. They are sometimes called Russian turnip, Swedish turnip, Swedes, winter turnip, yellow turnip, or Canadian turnip. Plant them in rows now and thin to four inches apart.

Rutabaga ripens best in cool autumn weather when it gets its mellow, deep flavor after fall frosts. You can leave the roots right in the ground for quite some time. Rutabaga is ready to dig up in just 70 to 80 days.

Summer is a good time to plant beets. Try all the colors of beets, not just traditional red beets. Chioggia beet from Italy has concentric red and white rings. There are mellow Golden Beets and even albino white beets. Sow the woody beet seeds about two inches apart, and you can have fresh beets in only 55 to 60 days. As a bonus you can cut the leaves of the beet plants and have fresh greens right away.

Summer is not always lazy or hazy, but can be crazy. In the summer of 1948, Nat King Cole bought a house in the all-white Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Members of the property owners association told Cole they did not want any undesirables moving in. Nat King Cole smiled and replied, “Neither do I. And if I see anybody undesirable coming in here, I’ll be the first to complain.”

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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