My friend Karen recently asked me when to plant her fall vegetables. Midsummer planting is an excellent way to extend the growing season into the fall. I prefer gardening in the early spring and late summer. It’s cooler and the sun is less intense. Another advantage is that cooler weather improves the flavor of many vegetables. A trick to successful late season planting is to choose varieties with short growing seasons. The average first frost occurs between Sept. 15 and Oct. 1. Plants need to mature quickly before the hard freezes set in. However, with cold protection, crops often can grow into November and sometimes beyond.
From mid-July to Sept. 1, the following vegetables can be seeded for a fall harvest: beets, Chinese cabbages (until mid-August), collards, kale, mustard greens, lettuce and radish (these last two only until mid-August), spinach, Swiss chard and turnips.
Beets take 30 to 60 days to mature and survive temperatures in the high 20s. Chinese cabbages (50 to 85 days) and collards (40 to 65 days), survive down to 20 degrees. Kale needs 40 to 65 days to mature and the hardiest varieties survive down to 20 degrees. Leaf lettuces (40 to 60 days) and mustard greens (30 to 40 days) survive light frosts. Radishes can ripen within 30 days. With mulching they can be dug until the ground freezes. Swiss chard (40 to 60 days) and turnips (30 to 60 days) survive light frosts. Spinach (40 to 52 days) will also survive hard frosts if mulched heavily.
While late season veggies can be planted from seed, transplants at local nurseries does give a fall garden a head start.
For late season plants to thrive and mature on time, be sure to work the soil by turning in compost, organic matter and a balanced fertilizer (either organic or traditional). This will replace the nutrients used by earlier crops. Remove old stems and roots so seeds can germinate easily without plant debris in the way. Plant seeds at the proper depth per the label and mist the soil multiple times a day until they sprout. Once the seedlings are up, keep the soil moist. As the weather cools, mulch the plants to protect them Cover those veggies that tolerate only light frosts with row covers to provide extra cold protection.
If you haven’t planted veggies yet, you may want to plant now.
JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.