Despite common perception, July is definitely not too late to plant garden vegetables and herbs. If circumstances have prevented you from planting in the spring—perhaps you moved into a new house or were traveling—many edibles, including both vegetables and herbs that yield multiple harvests, can be planted now for a fruitful bounty come fall. And while July may be too late for varieties like tomatoes or squash (depending on where you live), you can still pick seeds that work for your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone's climate pattern.
Zones 2 and 3 include Alaska, the north-central United States, northern New England, and the Rockies. When gardeners in Southern California are at their peak harvest in July, those in cooler climates can still get going. Greens like arugula, spinach, parsley, and cilantro go to seed quickly in hot, dry temperatures. But sown by seed in cooler regions mid-summer, these plants thrive and will produce well into fall. Root vegetables like beets and carrots also flourish when sown mid-summer, as they can stand a little frost nip and can be left under the snowpack to harvest later for a sweeter taste. Broccoli and cabbage starts or transplants also stand a chance planted now. The warm conditions, when irrigated thoroughly, yield a tasty crop before the first hard frost.
Zones 4 and 5 include the northern Midwest states and southern New England. Radishes, turnips, beets, and carrots can all benefit from a second planting in zones 4 and 5, where Indian summer is common. Radishes, with their relatively short maturation, will peak early and can be snacked on late summer. (But they'll get woody if you leave them in the ground too long.) Brussels sprouts, basil, and leeks planted from starts provide a nice addition to soups as the hot weather turns cool. And even late bloomers, like winter squash planted from starts, can be harvested well into fall, as long as you have row covers to keep the frost off.
Zones 6 and 7 include the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, and the Mid-Atlantic states. Mild temperatures with late to no frost create optimal seasonal conditions for most vegetables in zone 6 and 7. But even still, waning light into the fall will be your growing caveat here. Plant arugula, kale, and lettuces for a second (or even third) round. Most will mature for salads in late August and early September. Traditionally enjoyed in spring, peas and radishes can also be given another go, starting in July. And the bolting nature of parsley, dill, and cilantro eases once the heat of summer passes. So try out these herbs, too, for dried spices all winter long.
Zones 8, 9, and 10 cover the southern United States and California. Vegetables that are late to mature in cooler climates do fine down South when sown in July. Lucky gardeners in this general region can plant nightshades, like peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant, and pick their ripe fruit from the vine into early winter. All types of squash can be planted in midsummer, and you can enjoy the delicacy of their blossoms in about a month, followed by their large, yummy veggies at harvest time. In the middle of summer, this climate tends to be too hot for most herbs. Still, dill and cilantro (traditionally grown in Mexico) may fare well, depending on the given season's weather pattern.
Year-round growing is one of the many benefits of living in Hawaii, where melon, sweet potatoes, and even garlic can be planted in July. And no need to use starts here. Tropical temperatures combined with ample moisture create the ultimate environment for growing vegetables by seed. Nightshades also can be planted here in July (but wait for September to plant tomatoes). And since most herbs are perennials in this climate, add them at any point in the year as companions in your garden or ornamental additions to flower beds.