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What to plant now for a healthy harvest all summer

Food and Fitness

Though we’re well into the growing season in the Pacific Northwest, it's not too late to plant vegetables you can harvest all summer.

For the healthiest variety of vegetables on your plate, think about planting a rainbow. The more variety in color, the more variety in nutrients you tend to eat.

Small space, short season

With Portland's late start on spring, we have to plant what works for this time of year.

If you're interested in planting from seeds, look carefully for varieties with shorter "days to maturity" listed. Those that mature in 50 to 60 days will still fruit this season, but longer varieties-into 100 days-will run into the cold and dark of fall.

Another consideration is temperature. Some vegetables-lettuce comes to mind-wilt or get bitter in the heat of summer. Save these cool-weather vegetables for planting in late summer for a fall harvest.

Don't be discouraged if you don't have a large garden space. Even a small area in the ground or some patio containers can grow enough produce for some healthy additions to your summer and fall menus.

Red, orange and yellow vegetables

Even if you're working with a small gardening space or you're planting in patio containers, you can get a wide variety of delicious vegetables in the soil this week to enjoy in a couple months.

Starting at the "warm" end of the rainbow, plant some red, orange and yellow vegetables. Some favorites for small spaces include:

Tomatoes: Heirloom varieties come in an array of colors and sizes. At this late point in the spring, consider stopping by a local garden center to find interesting kinds of tomato starts-classic reds, heirloom orange and prolific yellow pear-shaped varieties. This week is perfect for transplanting these into pots, raised beds or cultivated garden space of any size.

Peppers: Your local garden center will have pepper starts too, or you can start short-season varieties from seeds. Like tomatoes, peppers come in many colors. Sweet peppers are delicious in salads and sautéed with other vegetables. Hot peppers can spice up summer salsas, sauces and sandwiches.

Carrots: Carrots can be planted throughout the spring for a summer harvest and through the summer for fall harvest. Stubby and round varieties work in containers. Your kids may enjoy planting carrots in an empty 2-liter soda bottle so they can watch as the carrots sprout and mature. (Who are we kidding? We want to watch too!)

Summer squash: Yellow summer squash grows well in Portland summers. Easy to start from seeds, squash grow on vines that take up a lot of space. If you're working in smaller spaces or containers, try training the squash to grow up a trellis. Pro tip: Squash flowers are edible and make colorful additions to salads or pasta!


Related: Grow a Healthy Rainbow Salad Anywhere


Green, blue and purple in your garden

The cooler colors of the rainbow pack their own power-punch of nutrition. Even patio gardens can produce fresh produce to round out your summer rainbow.

Greens: Aptly named, greens like spinach, chard and kale are the very definition of the "dark green, leafy vegetables" Adventist Health nutritionists want you to eat daily. Seed and eat tender greens like spinach and arugula right away, as they love our normally cool June weather. Chard and kale may be enjoyed as the summer continues if you keep using the outer leaves of each plant.

Basil: Basil is a hot-weather plant, so this week is a great time to put these seeds into containers or straight into the garden. Keep pinching off leaves as the summer progresses, and you'll have flavorful additions to your summer salads, pastas, soups and more.

Blueberries: Though not a vegetable, blueberries round out your produce rainbow and pair nicely with other garden veggies in your salads. If you're gardening in containers, you'll need a large pot for a blueberry bush. Self-pollinating varieties are best for small spaces-you'll only need one bush.

Beets: Like carrots, beets can be sown all summer for a nearly continuous crop midsummer through late fall. In addition to classic purple, beets come in yellow and even pink-and-white striped. Like carrots, they'll grow in containers as well as garden beds. Pro tip: Beet greens can be cooked and eaten like spinach or chard.

Not too late for a healthy harvest

Even though we are well into late spring, it's not too late to plant now for a summer of healthy produce. And Portland's warm forecast this week is perfect to help seeds germinate.

If you choose the right varieties, you'll be able to sprout seeds now and have plenty of time to enjoy a good harvest later. And the only thing better than a full rainbow of healthy food on your plate? Knowing you grew it yourself!