No matter what size garden you have one of the best ways to maximize the space is to keep something growing everywhere / all the time. This is often referred to as succession planting.
Now that the Summer season is upon us many gardeners will already have early season crops – lettuce, spinach, carrots, early potatoes, onions, peas, etc – that are finished producing and failing or beginning to fail. Others of us have a few spots left here and there that we just haven’t planted yet. Well get out your seed collection and poke some in the ground!
Don’t leave those unhappy failing plants suffering in the garden just because they are still producing an occasional pea – yank them out and toss them on the compost heap – a little (organic!) fertilizer or compost, and a quick pass through with a hoe and that spot will be ready for something new.
You might think that the little patch vacated by early lettuce is too small to do anything with – but take a cue from square foot gardeners – it’s not – if planted appropriately and well cared for. If you’re a small space gardener then it is even more important to keep the space that you do have planted and producing.
Great candidates for filling those empty spaces right now are the summer crops – beans, squash, cucumber, even corn or melons if you have enough space. Flowers are also a great option as well and many of them attract beneficial insects and may even repel insect pests (marigolds for example).
Unless you live somewhere without hot dry summer weather you probably should not plant cool season crops this late – although in a few weeks (July-August) you might want to start some for a fall garden.
If you’re a traditional row gardener you might consider broadcasting sunflower seed that you buy as bird food into your finished areas – the tall growing sunflowers will suppress weeds and when they mature they attract droves of songbirds. I did that a few years ago and the garden was filled with dozens of goldfinches for a while – I didn’t harvest a single seed – they ate every one right off of the flowers. It was great.
Here in zone 6 there is plenty of warm weather ahead at this point for just about anything, but what if that isn’t the case where you live or when you get a round tuit? Planting something (anything) is better than surrendering the ground to the weeds. If you plant beans or other legumes they will improve the soil by adding organic nitrogen even if you never get a harvest.
Assuming that you do hope to harvest something from your efforts it’s becoming increasingly important at this time of year to plant things that are relatively drought and insect resistant, because high summer is the season for both of those plagues. For our area Kentucky wonder green beans (either bush or pole variety) is a particularly good choice for those reasons – ask the garden specialist at your local farmers co-op for advice on your area.