Are you watching everyone else’s gardens flourish and kicking yourself that you haven’t gotten to yours yet?

Don’t worry, you’re not too late to the game (no matter what some people might tell you).

There are still plenty of things that you can grow in your garden even if you’re starting in mid-summer. Actually, you’ll probably have so much that you’ll wind up preserving and sharing your garden harvest, too. There are a few things to note for when you’re experimenting with fall gardening, whether you’re doing your next succession or starting from scratch this month.

Figure out what your first frost date is

If you did any spring planting, you may remember trying to determine what your last frost date was—well, this is the opposite. Your first frost date is the first frost that comes in the fall. This date will differ even within the same hardiness zones, so be sure to check your exact area’s frost date. Now that you know your first frost date, count how many frost-free days you have left and then look at your seed packets to see which plants you can successfully grow to maturity.

A note: Some veggies can tolerate a light frost (dips just below 0 degrees C), but not a hard frost. A hard frost is when the temperature dips below -2 C for at least four hours, or if it hits -4. It’s good to subtract 10-14 from your frost-free days to give yourself a little wiggle room so that you’re not playing with those hard frost dates.summer harvestPhoto by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash

Plan what you want to eat

Since it’s crunch time, you’ll really want to take a hard look at what you can still grow in July by looking at the seed packets, but also at what’s a priority for you to grow in your garden. If you had your heart set on tomatoes for fresh sauce, we’re a little too late on that front, but some zones can still get some cucumbers in for pickle-making. Having a good plan will help keep your garden productive and make sure you get the maximum amount of food out of a given space.

Don’t plant cool-loving plants too soon

That’s right, it still might be too early to plant certain crops again, like spinach, radishes and salad turnips, outside. The heat and humidity will cause these veggies to bolt (go to seed) or go pithy (woody and stringy), so it’s best to wait until later in August or even September to plant these ones, depending on your zone. Radishes can be sown 30 to 35 days before your first frost, whereas salad and other tender greens can go in about 50 to 60 days before frost.

The best frost-hardy varieties to plant in July are mostly: brassicas (cabbage family), including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, mustards, large turnips and cauliflower, but you can also plant your carrots, beets and Swiss chard now too. All of these crops are cold-tolerant, and the cold or light frost can even improve their flavour.

July planting isn’t just for cool-loving crops

You can also still plant some of those warm-season foods. We can’t plant everything this late in the season, but it’s sure not too late to plant certain things as long as you’ve taken a look at your available frost-free dates and double-checked your seed packet for their days to maturity.

Depending on your area, there’s still time to get some winter squash in (as long as it’s under 100 days and sown in early July), as well as zucchini (approximately 48 days), plus other summer squash, bush beans (60 days), and cucumbers (50 to 70 days).

Remember that it’s not just temperature that we’re working around, but sunlight as well. Some things like cucumbers and squash may take a bit longer as we get further away from the summer solstice (peak sun time) so the earlier you get these in, the better yield you’ll have.

So don’t let the looming month of July get you down. There’s plenty of food left for you to plant, even if you haven’t started anything yet. For your warm-season crops, you may want to get started as early in July as possible, but as for your cold-loving veggies, you have plenty of time to sow, transplant and reap the benefits of a late fall garden.