Do you have any available space in the vegetable garden? You may have openings because plants such as the peas have been harvested, or because some plants were eaten by bugs, rabbits or woodchucks, or because plants died from some mysterious disease.
For whatever reason, you need to consider replanting, mulching or losing the space. Two or three or more growing months remain in the season.
Gardening space is hard-won. You worked to clean the site in the spring. You dug and raked the soil. You planted and cultivated a crop. Perhaps cutworms, flea beetles or hungry critters of the four-footed variety ate the lettuce, kale, cabbage, or some tomato plants succumbed to a root-rot disease, but we have fully half a growing season remaining to us.
If you elect to ignore the open spaces, do be aware that weed seeds are present in the soil and are ready to rapidly colonize the bare ground. Weeds left to their own devices will grow in competition with your vegetables, sow a crop of seed and set the stage for years of future weeding.
If you lack the time, energy or interest to mature a new crop, then mulch the area. By covering the bare spots with a protective layer of mulch, the bare ground will not be able to support a crop of weeds.
Nutrients and moisture in the soil will not be taken up by weeds, but rather will be utilized by the existing vegetable plants. If your mulch is composed of layers of cut grass, well-rotted sawdust or finished compost, the soil will be improved and made ready for next spring planting. In addition, maintenance will be made easier and the garden will look more attractive.
If the idea of a second crop appeals to you, today provides an excellent opportunity to extend your gardening season until hard frost. What vegetables can be sown or set in July? Think leafy crops such as lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale and Swiss chard.
Consider root vegetables that can be harvested at any stage from baby to full size. Carrots, beets, radishes and turnips all taste better when pulled small. Roots, together with their well-washed tops, are ideal in salads, dips or eaten out-of-hand.
It is more challenging sowing seed directly in the garden during the month of July, as germinating seed and seedlings must be kept uniformly moist until the plants are established.
One often-used technique is to open a trench, moisten the soil, sow the seeds thinly, rake the soil to lightly bury the seeds, then lay a board over the row. Soil beneath the board will remain moist. Carefully watch for signs of sprouting, at which time the board is set on edge to provide some shade or totally removed. Watch your watering.
Fortunate gardeners will be able to discover newly started seedlings of many of the plants that they wish to grow. It is prime time for you to double your gardening pleasure by growing a fall crop of all your favorite vegetables. A world of fun, excitement and taste treats awaits you. What are you waiting for?

Paul Rogers is a correspondent for The Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette.