I START MY FALL VEGETABLE GARDEN no later than the first week of August. This gives seeds and plants (like the turnips above) time to grow and mature before Jack Frost checks their progress. If you want to avoid the supermarket this winter, or if your summer veggies didn’t live up to your expectations, you might like to plant a late-season garden, too. What to grow, and how to achieve a fantastic fall harvest:
The secret to a successful autumn harvest begins with a trip to the National Climatic Data Center, where you will discover your average first frost date. Next, determine when to plant by checking your seed packet for “days to maturity.” Then count backwards from the first predicted frost. If you live in the North, as I do, be sure to tack on an extra week just to be safe.
If your fall crops are going into the same beds where other, recently-harvested plants (like garlic and onions) grew, you’ll definitely want to add nutrients to the soil before planting. Add finished compost if you have it, or do what I do, and simply sprinkle a balanced, organic fertilizer over each bed, and then dig it in with a garden fork. Lightly digging with the fork has the added benefit of loosening and aerating the soil, too.
What to plant in your fall garden? Well, consider the same veggies you’d normally grow in spring. These cool-season crops can handle a touch of frost. Furthermore, they tend to flourish in milder weather and with lessening hours of sunlight. I’ve achieved terrific fall harvests from each of the following:
Cucumbers ‘National Pickling’ – 52 days to harvest
Broccoli ‘Green Giant’ — 55 days
Radish ‘Crimson Giant’ (and most others) — 29 days
Peas ‘Dark-Seeded Early Perfection’ — 60-65 days.
Carrots – ‘Touchon’ (and most others) – 65 days
Spinach – ‘Bloomsale Longstanding’ – 48 days*
Lettuce ‘Paris Island Romaine’ – 60-70 days
Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ – 60 days
Turnips (all varieties) – 30-60 days*
Green Beans (all varieties) – 50-60 days
Arugula – 35 days (you can harvest leaves about 3 weeks after planting)
* I plant a row of these every 2 weeks right through September
Although spinach, peas, beans, carrots and turnips are easily started from seed in mid- to late-summer, broccoli and other Brassicas are not. Consequently I buy these as transplants from a local farm store. Such seedlings are an insurance policy for we who live in the North, where the autumn growing-season is short.
If you are planning to plant a fall vegetable garden, I’d love to hear what you intend to grow. Mind dropping me a note in the comments section below?
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