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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee Magazine

Tips for Mid-Summer Gardening in the Midwest

Jun 30, 2021 08:30AM ● By Sheila Julson


For those that have an empty spot in the garden due to an end-of-spring harvest, a lost crop or just procrastination, there’s still time to plant veggies and herbs during July and August. Space-saving containers or vertical gardens can make mid-summer gardening approachable for people with small yards or apartment balconies.

"Succession planting is the key to having harvests all summer and fall, so by no means is it too late to plant,” affirms Amy Wallner of Amy's Acre, LLC, a diversified vegetable farm with a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program.

From seed, one could still plant beets, carrots, lettuces, radishes, green beans, summer and winter squash, and greens like arugula or kale. “My advice for anyone seeding these now is to keep the soil moist after seeding and while waiting for the crops to germinate,” Wallner suggests.

Diane Olson Schmidt, of Lacewing Garden Consulting and Design, recommends mid-season veggies such as spinach, Swiss chard, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, parsley, basil and bush bean, which can all be planted by seed in July through mid-August. “Be sure your seeds are from an organic source like Seed Saver’s Exchange, Botanical Interests, Lake Valley Seeds or Renee’s,” she emphasizes.

Bradley Blaeser, president of The Green Team of WI landscaping company, says this time of the year, herbs are still a good bet if gardeners can get ones that are already big enough to transplant. Herbs germinated indoors that have been “hardened off,” meaning that tender plants have been gradually exposed to sunlight, wind and uneven temperatures, can also be planted outdoors.

Beauty and Nourishment Through Edible Flowers

Blaeser notes that native columbine in orange, red or white tones are tasty right off the plant and can be used in salads or smoothies. “They’re a good self-seeder, so it spreads, but it’s easy to eradicate,” he explains. “Ask anyone who has it to give you some baby plants or seeds to plant this fall."

Flowers like bachelor’s buttons, sweet alyssum, French marigolds or nasturtiums should be planted in partial afternoon shade and are edible, says Olson Schmidt. These mid-season annuals also provide nectar for hummingbirds and pollinators.

Space and Planning

Edible gardening should be done in a way that can work with a busy lifestyle, Blaeser emphasizes. “It always takes longer than the time you think you have to care for them,” he says. Also, it’s never too early to think about next year’s garden. “Plan to think about next year or things that take a while. Traditional strawberries, alpine strawberries, currants, gooseberries, black berries, chives, native columbine, mint and oregano are all things that come back year after year.”

Blaeser cautions that mint and oregano should be planted in a way that can’t overtake space or grow under a fence. He advises planting these herbs in a pot and burying the pot most of the way into the ground.

Olson Schmidt’s clients usually garden in raised beds and container gardens, which work well for seniors. Containers are effective for moving plants into sun or shade when needed. Lettuce varieties can be planted in pots or planters that are off the ground and get afternoon shade, which delays bolting.

“When preparing containers, add a mix of topsoil, organic soil and soil from a potting mix. Don’t use all soilless container mix, as it dries out,” Olson Schmidt says. “Water once a day unless it rains a lot.” Rainwater can be collected by a rain barrel next to a downspout, or in pails left out during rain, and can be used for watering.

Raspberries, strawberries and cherry tomatoes grow well in hanging baskets. Olson Schmidt recommends maximizing space by growing up—outdoor wall gardens can be created by mounting small pots or grow bags to fencing to grow smaller plants.

Attract pollinators such as hummingbirds with plants like impatiens, which Olson Schmidt says works well in midseason gardens. She cautions against neonic type pesticides, as they are lethal to bees. Insecticidal soap or neem, used sparingly, are better choices. She adds that pests can also be sprayed off with hose water. Invite ladybugs and lacewings into the garden, which eat pests.

Blaeser concludes that for natives and edibles to flourish, pollinators are necessary. Incorporate as many natives as possible into your garden, such as milkweed, which attracts monarchs. “Butterfly weed, coneflowers, catmint, geranium and native irises attract a host of pollinators.”

Sources: Amy’s Acre LLC, 414-323-2210, [email protected],, see listing, page 36; The Green Team of Wisconsin, 414-721-1431, [email protected],; Lacewing, 414-793-3652, [email protected].

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings.