The 17 Best Summer Vegetables to Grow This Year

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Flower gardens are good for the soul, not to mention they attract and support pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds. But growing food in your own backyard or on your deck, patio or balcony has emerged as one of the biggest garden trends in the last year. It makes sense, given how satisfying it is to steam beans picked minutes ago for dinner or popping a fresh cherry tomato in your mouth right off the vine. And even if you’ve procrastinated and haven’t planted a garden just yet, there’s still plenty of time to grow things.

While it’s too late in most of the country to plant cool-season veggies, such as lettuce and Swiss chard, for a summer harvest, you can sow these crops later this growing season for a fall harvest. In the meantime, heat lovers, such as tomatoes and beans, are ready for the garden right now. Don’t forget that vegetables need full sun, which is six or more hours per day. And plant flowers nearby, too, so pollinators help veggies such as pumpkins and squash form fruit (no pollination = no fruit). Now, find the sunniest spot in your garden and start planting.

The 6 Big Garden Trends of 2021

Here are our favorite summer veggies you can grow right now:

summer vegetables annual herbs
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1. Annual Herbs

Even if you’ve never gardened, herbs are the perfect start. Most are incredibly easy to grow from seeds or transplants, and they do equally well in pots and beds. Annual herbs, which means they live one season, include basil, dill and cilantro/coriander (it’s the same plant; the leaves are cilantro and the seeds are coriander). Parsley is a biennial, which means it may live more than one year, but its leaves tend to be bitter the second season, so it’s typically grown as an annual.

summer vegetables perennial herbs
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2. Perennial Herbs

Adding perennial herbs is a great garden investment because they’ll come back for many years— and most can take a wee bit of cold, so you’ll be able to harvest late in the growing season. Sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary (which can endure winter outdoors in warmer climates), and both onion and garlic chives are super-simple to grow from seeds or transplants.

summer vegetables tomatoes
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3. Tomatoes

No garden is complete without tomatoes, and there are hundreds of types to please any palate from big, juicy slicers to sweet cherries. Indeterminate types are vines that can reach 9 or 10 feet long, so make sure you have plenty of space or a very large container; they’ll need a sturdy trellis or cage for support. Indeterminate types get 3 to 4 feet tall, and some often remain compact enough for patio pots. It’s too late to grow tomatoes from seed in most of the country, so check local nurseries or online retailers for plants (though they often stop shipping by early summer because gets too stressful for the plants in transit).

summer vegetables beans
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4. Beans

The great thing about beans is that they’re a cinch to grow. You also can succession plant, which means you put seeds in the ground every few weeks until mid to late July, depending on where you live, so you can harvest for a longer period of time. Bush beans stay compact and max out at a foot or so tall, while pole beans need something to climb. Both grow fast so you have plenty of time to plant seeds now in most of the country.

summer vegetables cucumbers
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5. Cucumbers

Cucumbers love hot weather, so now is the ideal time to grow them. They take about 50 days to mature from planting, so in much of the country, there’s still time to plant from seed. But if your area gets early frosts, opt for transplants so they’ll have a head start.

summer vegetables peppers
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6. Peppers

Peppers come in every variety you can imagine, from huge and sweet to tiny and hot. They thrive in hot weather, so there’s still time to plant. Some types need a small tomato cage or stake to keep them upright under the weight of their fruit. It’s best to plant these from transplants now.

summer vegetables pumpkins
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7. Pumpkins

If you want pumpkins for fall decorating or pie baking, now’s the time to plant. Most types take about 100 days to mature, so get them in the ground no later than mid to late July. Pumpkins can be direct-seeded, meaning you can plant the seeds outside, rather than starting them in a container indoors and replanting them outdoors later.

summer vegetables summer squash
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8. Summer Squash

Summer squashes, such as yellow crookneck and zucchini, like the heat, so you still can plant them and harvest tons of squash before the first frost. They’re relatively fast growers, so you should be able to plant from seed in most of the country.

summer vegetables kale
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9. Kale

This superfood is popular for its nutritious greens, which can be sautéed, added to frittatas or pureed in smoothies. And it’s so easy to grow! Plant seeds now for fall harvests. You can take the leaves when they’re tiny for salads or let them mature. Some types will overwinter themselves for spring harvests next year.

summer vegetables swiss chard
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10. Swiss Chard

Plant the seeds of this beautiful edible now for fall harvests (it’s biennial, so some plants may survive the winter in mild climates). It matures in about 50 to 75 days, and you can start harvesting outside leaves when they get about 6 inches tall for salads or sautés.

summer vegetables sunflowers
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11. Sunflowers

What’s cheerier in your garden than the happy faces of sunflowers? Tuck a few seeds in between other planting, and enjoy the seeds for yourself or to share with wildlife in the fall. If digging rodents (such as chipmunks) attack your seeds, protect them by making a “cage” of hardware cloth and burying in-ground, then planting the seeds inside it.

summer vegetables radishes
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12. Radishes

There’s no faster crop from start to finish than radishes, so they’re a great vegetable for kids to grow. Many types take just 25 to 30 days to mature. Plant seeds, then thin them (aka remove excess seedlings) so the radishes have enough room between each other to develop their round or elongated shapes.

summer vegetables beets
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13. Beets

Plant seeds in spring for summer harvests or in late summer for fall harvests. Both the root and the greens are edible, and they’re so much sweeter and more delicious when you roast them (way better than canned beets—trust us).

summer vegetables carrots
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14. Carrots

Carrots are another root crop that can be planted in spring or fall. Plant seeds now for fall harvests. Look for fun, kid-friendly types such as purple carrots or baby-sized carrots.

summer vegetables eggplant
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15. Eggplant

It’s your last chance to get these gorgeous heat-loving veggies in the ground (or in containers) for the season. Stick with transplants now so the eggplants will have time to mature before the first frost.

summer vegetables turnips
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16. Turnips

They may be one of the most unassuming vegetables in the garden, but turnips are nutrient powerhouses. They also can be planted twice in a season. Direct seed in the garden in spring for a summer crop or in mid-summer for a fall crop. New varieties are delish both fresh and sautéed.

summer vegetables gourmet greens
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17. Gourmet Greens

Late summer gives you time to plant greens such as arugula and mesclun to harvest baby greens before a frost. It’s also much cheaper (and fresher) than buying those pricey gourmet greens in the supermarket.

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Freelance Gardening Editor

Arricca Elin SanSone is a gardener with more than 15 years of experience. In addition to PureWow, she writes for Prevention, Country Living, Veranda, The Spruce and many other...