So you have a bald spot in your yard. A couple of your pepper plants are reduced to sticks; slugs devoured their leaves. Your pea vines are withering, their leaves dead. Most of the onions are pulled, and the lettuce has run to seed or is about to. Some of the beans have rotted as a result of those torrential downpours.
The remedy for such midsummer blues is replanting.
It is by no means too late to sow snapbeans. They will sprout as quickly and as reliably in the heat of July as they do in May, and they will be ready after Labor Day.
Bush beans can be planted in any spot blessed with more than three hours of sunlight. Pole beans are even more vigorous growers.
Letting pole beans run up and sideways on your fence is a time-tested idea combining thrift and beauty, of making the most of your space in an attractive way. If you don't have a fence, you can easily set up one with a row of 6-foot-tall bamboo sticks, each arranged as a tripod and tied with wire or string at the point of their confluence. You might place horizontal sticks across the top of the tripods, and thus encourage the vines to form a hedge.
You can create the same type of screen or fence with cucumbers though the foliage is not likely to be as luxuriant as the beans'.
The leading candidate for bald spots is the tomato. If you grew cherry tomatoes last year or if your strategy of quick composting includes the burial of kitchen refuse, you are likely to have some tomato plants that came up from seed. Tomato seeds even survive the heat of a regular compost pile, and the seedlings emerge after you spread your best-composted compost.
The affectionate term for the tomato seedling no one planted is volunteer, and a volunteer is worth gambling with.
The risks are few, and the rewards can be great. Volunteer tomatoes are always tough--after all, nobody coddled them in flats or pots, yet they came up--and they often are unusually productive, and bear fruit after all other tomato plants have completed their life cycle. In most instances, they come from hybrids and they revert to one of the parents. For instance, plants from cherry tomato seeds often produce fruits of the size of a Ping-Pong ball.
Giving volunteers the run of a few square feet encourages their growth, and some of them get a real boost when transplanted. It is best to set them low, cut off their low leaves and hill them up. Snipping their top growth will result in a bushier, more compact plant.
Do not replant the onions you pull. Onions are a cool-weather crop, and after July new sets planted to take the place of those you pulled do not develop well. Save your sets until September, when they can be planted to winter over.
Heat-resistant salad greens serve as ideal replacement for onions and lettuce. Roquette--also known as aragula--is gaining in popularity. By itself, its taste is a bit strong, but it will add zing to any mixed salad. It sprouts quickly and self-seeds unless its flower heads are cut off in time. New Zealand spinach is another sharp taste in a mixed salad. Mache (also known as corn salad) is a delicacy in France. Its leaves are twice as thick as lettuce, and it has a robust taste. It keeps growing leaves that can be harvested the same way as leaf lettuce. Finally, there is chard, with its quickly growing, large, showy leaves oblivious to heat and producing profusely until the first heavy frost.
Seeds of carrots, beets and kale may be sown directly in the soil as early as mid-July. And you can start broccoli, Chinese cabbage and kohlrabi in flats, to be set out as seedlings in August. It pays to think fall in the heat of the summer.
Starting July 21, look for Charles Fenyvesi's column on Thursdays in Washington Home. Beginning July 24, Henry Mitchell's Earthman column will appear on Sundays in Style.