IORDERED SEEDS LAST WEEKEND. Yes, I am fully aware it’s not mid-winter or early spring; even with my nonstop mowing duties, I haven’t gone all dizzy yet. The vegetable garden is freeing up some prime real estate this month, and I plan to capitalize. From arugula to turnips, I worked my way alphabetically through the late-season possibilities for my Northern location, and found I was short a few key seeds. In print or podcast—your choice—are you ready for some fall vegetable-garden tuneup possibilities?
Prefer the Podcast?
MY LATEST WEEKLY SHOW with NPR affiliate Robin Hood Radio, WHDD in Sharon, Connecticut, tackles the topic of replanting your vegetable garden for a harvest well into the fall. Stream it, or subscribe free on iTunes.
Possible Crops I Could Still Grow:*
Arugula, Asian greens (such as pak choi, mustard, mizuna, tatsoi), green beans (bush), beets, broccoli**, Brussels sprouts**, cabbage**, carrots, cauliflower**, celery or celeriac**, collards, chicories (including radicchio, endive, escarole), kale, kohlrabi**, leeks**, lettuce, onions (bunching), parsnips, peas, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, Swiss chard, turnips.
* Technically, I could also sow a short-season cucumber or summer squash right this minute, one rated about 48 days to maturity, but my harvest period might be short. With herbs, I’ll re-sow cilantro, and have some young basil and parsley plants ready to set out from June sowings.
**Denotes crops I would have to buy seedlings for; too late to start here from seed but plenty of time from transplants.
Soil Too Hot and Dry for Germination?
SOME SEEDS WON’T GERMINATE in baking soil, so a day or two before I sow things in high summer, I moisten and shade the bed-to-be. Cultivate at least lightly to prepare the seedbed, then water well and erect knitted shade fabric on hoops (over the area, or just lay it on the ground). With heat-sensitive crops like salad things and spinach, I leave the shade cloth up as the plants develop.
But When Exactly to Sow What?
IT DOESN’T ALL GO IN AT ONCE—each crop has its timing, though I’m in a hurry here on the green beans, for instance, which I like to have in by mid-July. Some things still can have multiple repeat sowings, such as arugula and lettuce and other salad things, so I’ll sow a short row now, and every two weeks into early September. To calculate the right timing for your garden, there are many handy reference charts online from the cooperative extensions services and other agricultural groups in various regions, such as:
- Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association
- Michigan State Extension
- Clemson University Extension
- University of Florida Extension
- Texas A&M (click “Vegetable Planting Guide” in left column for pdf chart)
Search your state or county extension website for “fall vegetable garden” or even “winter vegetable garden” in the hottest areas where planting starts up again even later. Johnny’s Selected Seed also offers a calculator you can download to determine your planting times (link to the pdf is on this page on their site).
- I’ve written before in more detail how I calculate what to sow when and where when and where. And a final tip: If you’re buying any seed as I just did, choose varieties geared to this season of the year for best results, often meaning faster to harvest or displaying more tolerance to changing conditions at the harvest side of the equation.