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Marie Hofer

Bright Lights Chard Vibrant Multicolored Stems
'Bright Lights' Swiss chard has rich color and flavor. Its crisp mix of red, pink, yellow and orange stems perks up meals. Heat tolerant plants are easy to grow in 55 days.

Mid or late summer isn't too late to plant summer veggies. In fact, seasoned gardeners often like to plant successive crops every four weeks or so just to stagger the harvest. And to make it even simpler, save yourself the hassle of digging in the hot sun and opt for a container veggie garden.

Here's how to do it:

Choose varieties that have a short growing cycle. Summer squash typically needs 45 to 50 days from seed to harvest, depending on variety (a few like Cougar and Enterprise mature in only 40 days); zucchini, 45-60, depending on variety; bush beans (57 to 58 days for Bush Kentucky Wonder and Blue Lake, respectively); cucumbers (as few as 50), cherry tomatoes (as few as 45 days, depending on variety).

'Tomato Tumbling Tom' Tomato - Tomato Varieties - Mid-Season Tomatoes
'Tumbling Tom Red' is a truly trailing tomato, perfect for tubs, patio containers or cascading from a hanging basket. Cherry-sized, sweet, juicy fruits are produced in abundance through the summer.

And to cut the time even farther, browse your local home-and-garden centers or nurseries for transplants, which can cut your time to harvest by up to two weeks.

'Bright Lights' swiss chard can span the seasons — producing some leaves for August salads but also thriving through the fall, continuing to supply you with cooking greens.

If you decide to go with seed, sow indoors so you can more closely control moisture and heat. When the seedlings show at least two sets of true leaves, remove them gently from the seed flat and transplant to the final containers, says Stephanie Turner, horticulturist at Park Seed. "Give them a day or two in part shade to help them get used to the heat, then move them into the sun."

Provide a good potting soil, plus timely water and fertilizer, and before summer is gone, your veggie garden will be rewarding you with a feast. If you live in a colder climate with a short growing season, check with your local extension agent or trusted nursery for the best varieties and timing for a successful crop. Some crops like tomatoes and peppers are especially cold sensitive; when nighttime temperatures drop to 55 or below, they stop growing and begin to yellow.

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