10 Vegetables You Can Direct Seed in July
July may be mid-summer for many gardeners, but that doesn't mean it's too late to start planting. In this article, gardening expert and former organic farmer Logan Hailey shares her favorite vegetables you can still direct sow in the month of July.
July may seem like a strange time to sow seeds, but you can plant a surprising diversity of vegetables in the midsummer sun. Depending on your part of the world, this is an ideal time to start establishing fall and winter crops or to sneak in another quick round of late-summer corn and zucchini.
In northern regions, you can get away with bolt-tolerant greens. In southern ones, it’s time to prepare for an autumn crop of tomatoes, squash, and peppers.
Let’s dig into the 10 best seeds to plant in July.
There are plenty of vegetables you can plant in July in any zone. It is a common misconception that you can only plant a garden in the spring. In reality, you can extend your harvests by planting multiple successions of your favorite crops.
For example, if you love cauliflower and kale, you can plant both a spring and autumn crop. Depending on your region, the fall crop may be planted in July or August, so it has time to mature before cold weather sets in.
Ironically, many cool-weather crops benefit from July sowing because the soils are warm. The greatest challenge is maintaining consistent moisture to facilitate germination. You should have no problem germinating new veggies in the midsummer warmth if you have soaker hoses, sprinklers, or drip lines.
With no risk of frost and plenty of sunshine, July weather offers a window of opportunity for establishing delicious autumn vegetables. As long as you have plenty of irrigation, these crops shouldn’t have any problems germinating and thriving.
- Soil Temperature: 65-80°F
- Seeding Rate: Sow 1-1 ½” deep, 6-7” apart, in rows 24-36” apart
- Direct Seed in These Zones: Zones 2-10
Corn is a fast-growing classic that screams summer. Fortunately, it matures quickly enough to plant several successions throughout the season. If you want sweet corn at your Labor Day BBQ, sow corn seeds in early July! This will ensure you have delicious, crisp ears ready to harvest before the festivities. ‘True Gold’ and ‘Honey and Cream’ are top-tier choices.
If you grow in zone 8 or warmer, July is also a great time to sow popcorn varieties. While these cultivars take longer to mature and dry, they should still have plenty of time to grow before fall frosts. We love ‘Robust Pop’ and rainbow ‘Glass Gem’ popcorn varieties.
- Soil Temperature: 75-85°F
- Seeding Rate: Seed 3-4 seeds every 12-18”, ½” deep, in rows 18-36” apart and thin to 1 plant per 18”. Alternatively, start in cell trays or plugs.
- Direct Seed in These Zones: Zone 2-9
It’s difficult to think about fall while it’s sweltering hot, yet July is ideal for getting a head start on autumn greens. Kale likes to mature in cool weather between 55 and 75°F, but the seedlings actually enjoy soil temperatures over 75°F for optimal germination.
Count back 3 months from your expected fall frost and sow kale seeds around this time. In cooler climates, you can start a kale succession whenever you’d like. Southern gardeners should wait until the heat subsides. ‘Black Magic’ and ‘Lacinato Dinosaur Kale’ tolerate warmer temperatures fairly well.
To prevent premature bolting, plant in a partially shaded area, maintain consistent moisture, and optionally, use shade cloth.
- Soil Temperature: 60-85°F
- Seeding Rate: ¾-1” apart (wider for bigger carrots), ¼-½” deep, in rows 16-24” apart
- Direct Seed in These Zones: Zone 2-8
Carrots are another cool-weather crop more commonly associated with fall. Hot, dry weather can yield tough carrots that aren’t as flavorful as their frost-sweetened counterparts.
Nonetheless, storage carrot varieties like ‘Bolero’ and ‘RubyPak’ take up to 80 days to mature, which means a late July sowing will yield carrots that mature in the cool weather of late September and early October.
Southern or Southwestern growers should hold off on fall roots until a little later in the season, as the hot August sun could scorch young seedlings. Alternatively, these can be started in a mostly-shaded area in those parts of the country. Zones 7 and 8 may consider interplanting carrots with tomatoes or chard to give them some dappled shade until the weather cools.
- Soil Temperature: 75-90°F
- Seeding Rate: Sow ½ deep, 1-2” apart, in rows 12-18” apart. Thin to 1 plant every 2”.
- Direct Seed in These Zones: Zones 2-10
The humble beet is an almost year-round crop in most regions. In fact, most farmers succession seed beets every 2 weeks to ensure a continuous supply. These chard relatives can handle the cold, tolerate the heat, and it produces greens and roots simultaneously! Did you know that beet greens can be used just like chard in the kitchen?
Direct sow beets any time in the summer. Because they are biennial, it is rare for them to bolt in the vegetable garden. ‘Chioggia,’ ‘Touchstone Gold,’ and ‘Boro’ offer a nice blend of colors for summer beet salads or autumn root roasts.
‘Chioggia’ boasts a candy-cane striped interior, while ‘Touchstone Gold’ has a vibrant orange-yellow flesh that perfectly contrasts the classic deep red color of ‘Boro.’ Since you don’t have to worry about cross-pollination, I recommend sowing as many fun varieties as you’d like! You can even pull some of them young and enjoy them as tender raw baby beets shredded in salads or pickles.
The key is to keep the roots well-irrigated. Raised, rough brown calluses on the roots indicate scab, caused by inconsistent moisture. Mulch can help keep the soil moist during July’s inevitable heat waves. Shade cloth or interplanting beneath trellised tomatoes can help keep the beets cooler in southern climates.
- Soil Temperature: 65-80°F
- Seeding Rate: Sow ¼” deep, 1-2” apart, in rows 36” apart. Thin plants to 4-6” apart, depending on your trellis.
- Direct Seed in These Zones: Zones 4-12
When gardening in a hot climate, you probably crave some summer greens. While regular spinach, lettuce, and kale tend to wither and bolt in scorching temperatures, Malabar spinach doesn’t mind the heat.
This unique vining green grows throughout summer and into the fall. Like spinach, the leaves are savoyed (curly), thick, and glossy. The flavor is similar to Swiss chard. The purplish-red stems of some cultivars add a nice burst of color to any stir fry. The greens can be enjoyed raw or cooked in most dishes.
Give Malabar spinach a mesh netting to climb. It doesn’t need a robust trellis and can co-exist alongside your trellised cucumbers or tomatoes.
Remember that soil temperatures above 80°F may cause reduced germination, so it may be best to start these in seed starting trays in a cooler location and then transplant them into the garden. However, this unique green doesn’t mind poor or acidic soil!
- Soil Temperature: 75-90°F
- Seeding Rate: Plant 1” deep about 3” apart in rows 2-4’ apart (depending on variety and trellis)
- Direct Seed in These Zones: Zones 2-12
Summer beans are one of the best warm-weather vegetables for July. Many bean lovers sow green bean varieties every 1-2 weeks for a constant supply of crisp pods. Unlike their pea relatives, beans don’t mind hot weather. The plants pull nitrogen from the air and affix it on nodules on their roots, and after the season, those roots will decay away into the soil and replenish the nitrogen for the next crop. I like to seed different varieties of beans in one bed throughout the summer.
Whether you choose bush beans, pole beans, or shelling (dry) beans, keep some flowering pollinator plants nearby to ensure adequate pollination. All beans benefit from continuously moist but not soggy soil.
Inoculants of Rhizobium (the beneficial bacteria that colonized the roots of legumes) can help increase the nitrogen-fixing actions of the roots and slightly improve yields. But when growing legumes in the same bed throughout the season, this probably isn’t necessary because the bacteria will already hang out in your soil.
- Soil Temperature: 75-80°F
- Seeding Rate: Sow ¼” deep in cell flats and transplant outdoors in 3-4 weeks., 18” apart, in rows 18-36” apart.
- Start Indoors or On Patio in These Zones: Zones 2-8
Is it already that time!? For northern gardeners, the best fall broccoli crops start in late summer. While broccoli doesn’t do well in hot weather, the young seedlings can mature rapidly in the warmth of July, then enjoy the cooler autumn temperatures.
This establishment period is especially important if you live where heavy freezes occur early in the fall. ‘Emerald Crown’ is ideal for eastern growers, while ‘Di Cicco’ is great for far northern gardeners.
Bunching or sprouting broccoli varieties like ‘Burgundy’ are particularly rewarding because you plant them once and harvest them continuously until the first frosts. Instead of producing a central head of broccoli, these types yield yummy, tender side shoots that can be bunched together, roasted, chopped, or grilled like asparagus. ‘Rapini Broccoli Raab’ and ‘Chinese Broccoli’ yield similar results.
- Soil Temperature: 75-90°F
- Seeding Rate: Sow ½-¾” deep, 12” apart, in rows 4-6’ apart or closer if using a trellis
- Direct Seed in These Zones: Zones 6-10
The window of cucumber planting may be past for cold-weather gardeners, but growers in mild zones can still seed another round of cucumbers to enjoy in late-summer salads or fall pickles. Cucumbers mature in 60 to 70 days, meaning a July-planted crop will produce fruits by mid-September. Pickling varieties like ‘Homemade Pickles’ are even faster, at just 55 days.
It’s best to give cucumbers a trellis and prune off the side shoots (runners) just like you do with tomatoes. Summer cucumbers benefit from plenty of frost-free weather and fewer pest issues after the initial spring flux of cucumber beetles.
Still, I like to cover my direct-sown cucumber seeds with a light layer of row cover until they are a few inches tall. This preserves moisture and keeps rodents out of the crop. For whatever reason, voles and mice seem to love cucurbit seeds. A garden cat could also do the trick.
- Soil Temperature: 65-86°F
- Seeding Rate: Sow in a 2-4” wide band, 1” apart for small roots or 2” apart for larger roots. Seeds should be ¼” to ½” deep in rows 12-18” apart.
- Direct Seed in These Zones: Zones 2-9
We commonly think of turnips as those mystery vegetables in Grandma’s weird, mushy stew. But turnips are making a trendy comeback in the foodie scene! Instead of growing dense, hardy, purple-top turnips (you can plant those, too!), many gardeners opt for varieties called salad turnips. They’re crisp like an apple, hydrating like a cucumber, and fairly neutrally flavored.
Try ‘Hakurei’ Japanese salad turnips for the best fresh-eating, sweet turnips. These white-fleshed roots are so tasty that I’ve seen children fight over them! You can eat them straight out of the garden on a hot late summer day or save them for later, like beets. Harvest when they’re about radish-sized for the most tender texture.
For something even more unique, try a pink turnip such as ‘Scarlet Queen’ or ‘Hirosaki Red.’ These salad turnips can also be enjoyed raw but have a bit more of a kick. They mature in just over a month and tend to resist bolting as long as they have dappled shade and consistently moist soil. A light straw mulch around the base can help keep them cool.
- Soil Temperature: 70-90°F
- Seeding Rate: Seed ½” deep, about 6 seeds per foot, in rows 12-18” apart. For bunching, thin to 4-6” between plants. For baby leaves, sow 1-2 seeds per inch.
- Direct Seed in These Zones: Zones 5-10
Like beets, Swiss chard tends to be pretty chill about the summer sun (no pun intended!) These rainbow-stemmed greens are eager to please almost any time of year. As long as you keep them well-watered and regularly harvested, the plants will yield lush nutrient-dense greens until the frosts of fall.
July is ideal for direct seeding chard because the warm soils ensure consistent germination. You can enjoy tender colorful leaves by late August. We love the ‘Celebration Swiss Chard’ blend because it offers a complete rainbow of colors and uniform leaves.
No matter your growing zone, mid-summer is the time to start thinking about fall harvests. If you’re unsure about exact planting dates, find the expected days to maturity of your desired crop and count backward from your expected fall frost day. Then, add a couple of weeks of buffer. This will give you an idea of the perfect late planting window.
Don’t forget to provide continuous irrigation, fluffy mulch, and partial shade to July-sown seeds. You don’t want them to dry out while you’re lounging by the pool!