Writte by Amy Grisak, Living in Season
Spring doesn’t always cooperate. Sometimes winter clings on until June, or it heats up to mid-summer temperatures sending the cool season crops bolting to seed overnight. Or, if you just didn’t get to the garden, have no fear – you can still plant some veggies and enjoy them until the snow flies.
Many areas of the country enjoy long, temperature autumns that offer plenty of time to grow a second or third crop of many vegetables. As with gardening in the spring, be ready to throw a protective cover over your plants to bring them through a cold snap. Use a sheet, blanket, or floating row cover (available on-line or in many garden supply centers) to protect plants. Plastic is the least desirable cover since it will freeze to the plant if it touches it at all, and then can fry the vegetables if left on after the sun rises too high before removing it.
When you plant, particularly if it’s during the heat of the summer, be sure to water the seeds or seedlings well and keep them moist. You typically don’t have to water as much once the cool weather comes in the fall, but don’t let them dry out.
Here are a few ideas for a fall garden:
~ Plant for late salads: This is a great time of year to plant greens to have fresh green salads long into the fall. Seed sections of lettuce, spinach, machê and others every couple of weeks from now until the end of August so you have new plants sprouting on a regular basis. Kale stands up to harsh winter weather, allowing many gardeners to harvest longer than others, and Swiss chard withstands substantial cold weather. It will even often bounce back once spring arrives providing early greens next year.
~ Look for short season varieties: Even though beans and cucumbers might seem like summer crops, if you choose a variety that matures in 50-60 days you should be able to pick them before snowfall. Keep this in mind when you’re looking at any potential fall vegetable.
~ Go to your roots: There’s still time to sow fast growing root crops, such as carrots and beets, this time of the season. Pull them as you need them until the ground freezes. In warmer climates, they can stay put throughout the winter, but use them before they begin growing next spring or they’ll use the stored energy in the roots for seed production making them less palatable.
~ Hardy brassicas: Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower thrive in the cool weather. You should put in plants in most areas of the country, but once they’re growing it’ll take more than a little frost to shut down production. Look for late season plants at greenhouses to see if they have any left.
Even if you didn’t plant as much as you wanted in the spring, put a few seeds in the ground now to enjoy fresh veggies as long as possible.