My Square Foot Garden: Late Summer Slowdown


The excitement of starting my diminutive (but fast-growing) garden back in June has given way to some late summer doldrums. The cucumber vines are withering, leaves on the once-lush green tomato vines are either shriveling or turning yellow (or both), and carrots and lettuce planted in July have failed to grow.

All is not lost, however. While the tomato plants are looking a little humble lately, I'm excited to see the actual fruit are finally growing. And the little finger eggplants have been very prolific, growing at least two to three eggplants per week.

Another surprise comes from the bean plants I planted in July. I thought I got in the game way too late, for the bush bean plants have looked pretty puny, and the pole beans, while quickly climbing to the top of the wigwam, had few leaves (and those that did grow were looking a little drab). Nevertheless, on closer inspection, I discovered that the beans were growing. There will probably be only a handful, but its more than I was expecting.

The cucumber vines have now slowed down (I think one of them is on its deathbed). But, before the wilting started, cucumbers were growing fast and furious. Below, a sample of the harvest as presented by my daughter in my best Saveur-style composition.

I haven't planted anything for fall. Is mid-September too late? I thought I might as well try planting some spinach and more salad greens since I have plenty of seeds. If you have ideas, please let me know in the comments.


The roll call, box-by-box (and row by row, left to right):


Box #1
· The Cherokee tomato plant has grown a couple of fruit.
· The green zebra tomato plant keeps growing taller, but no sign of fruit yet.
· After a bountiful July, one of the cucumber plants started to shrivel and die, while the other is sporadically growing cukes.
· Red chard, while still alive, looks puny and almost the same as it did a month ago.
· Basil is getting woody. The lower leaves are withering and turning yellow. Some of the leaves are being eaten by bugs, but the plant is still producing.
· The pole beans have climbed up to the top of the wigwam and flowered. They don't look too healthy, yet they are actually producing tiny beans.
· Arugula continues to grow, though slowly.
· I planted more frisee here, but nothing has come up.
· The Asian green salad mix continues growing, but is not large enough to snip.


Box #2
· Vintage wine tomatoes are growing.
· Brandywine vine is growing some huge tomatoes.
· Hillbilly tomato plant also has about four large tomatoes now.
· The finger eggplant has been very productive, growing two to three eggplants at a time.
· More radishes coming along here.
· The yellow bush beans I planted in late July have grown about a foot and don't look so good. But, like the pole beans, I discovered there are tiny little beans growing.
· The spicy/globe basil will not stop growing.
· Beets never showed up.
· Seeds for carrots went in here, but they seemed to have failed.

Stay tuned for more updates, or follow along as I post photos of the garden's progress on flickr.


The Food Section's Square Foot Garden photoset The Food Section's Square Foot Garden photoset



You've got quite a few options for sowing now. Any of the loose leaf lettuces, incl. spinach are great, they prefer this weather. Snap peas might still have time (I sowed mine about 2 weeks ago) depending on how early in gets cold in the Northeast. Any root crops, beets, carrots, turnips, etc. Kale is another good option.


Hi Josh-first of all, where do you live? that might help me answer.
Secondly, while I appreciate that you are pressed for space, all of the plants have hugely different requirements with regards to sun. Tomatoes are sun whores. Lettuces, especially little tender arugula, likes dappled at best. I think you have to pick one or the other (ie. lots of sun) or none. Or better yet, plant the tomatoes in garbage cans like I did and stick them in the sunniest part of the yard. I had an extremely prolific summer. Also, I think the plants are way too crowded. I think next year you pick one or two crops and plant those, whatever came in the best. Good luck!


Here in mid-Jersey, we still have plenty of time to get in another lettuce crop. Also, if you have onion seeds, you can grow scallions. If you want to overwinter carrots, mix carrot seed with spinach seed and plant together -- the spinach will literally break ground for the slow-growing carrots. And now is the perfect time to plant garlic.


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Thanks for all of the tips. I'm in Northern New Jersey. The carrot/spinach seed technique sounds very cool.


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I discovered that the beans were growing. There will probably be only a handful, but its more than I was expecting.


Red chard, while still alive, looks puny and almost the same as it did a month ago.


Nevertheless, on closer inspection, I discovered that the beans were growing. There will probably be only a handful, but its more than I was expecting.


i would like to have a square foot garden like yours, in my garden i have tomatoes, cucumbers and other plants


It's amazing what you can grow in such a small space. More people need to follow your lead!


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