The summer gardening season may be at its peak, depending on your location, or it may be ending. For those in warmer zones, such as Florida and California, the best of the vegetable garden is just beginning. I just planted some of my cool season crops in containers here in zone 7 and will have fresh salads in a few weeks. You, too, can have cool season container crops lasting until freezing temperatures cause growth to cease.
Using long containers, about 8 inches deep, fill with a well-draining potting soil or a soilless mixture. Plant seeds according to directions on the pack. Round pots can be used if that's what you have, but they don't have as much growing room.
Mesclun Mix, commonly called spring mix, is a combination of various colorful arugulas, leaf lettuce and salad greens. Ready to begin harvesting in 40 days, growing this cool season crop is a healthy way to save money at the grocery store. Cut the outside leaves as needed and leave the inner leaves to mature for future salads. Most spring mix yields three to five harvests, possibly more. Reseed the container as needed for an ongoing crop until freezing temperatures occur regularly.
Leaf Lettuce is a heavy feeder. Lettuce likes nitrogen. Fertilize growing lettuce with liquid worm castings, compost tea, fish emulsion or any balanced organic fertilizer. Replant lettuce every two weeks for a steady supply until the weather becomes too cold for it to produce. Mix leaf lettuce with spring mix and spinach in salads.
Radishes grow quickly. Two varieties, Early Scarlet Globe and French Breakfast, are already sprouting in my just-planted containers. Only 20 to 25 days for development of this tasty snack and addition to salads.
Spinach is also growing in my cool season containers. Similar to leaf lettuce, spinach is a healthy addition to salads. We often use it wilted with bacon and in quiche. Both crops will need six to eight hours of sun and consistent moisture. Both may be grown in containers and with a grow-light system may be grown as indoor crops.
Sweet Basil still has time to develop a healthy root system from cuttings. As an annual plant, now is the time to plant for indoor use as a kitchen herb and fragrant house plant this winter.
Get your cool season crop growing while warm temperatures are available to encourage root growth. Planting in containers lets you provide shade when temperatures are too hot for the cool season crop. Move them inside, if you can, when temperatures get near freezing.