Having survived July, we can now look forward to better days in the garden. That means it is time to start thinking about the third act in the vegetable garden year: fall.
This is the too-often overlooked season for vegetable gardens. Yet it can be very rewarding, and it promises a long season of growth and productivity.
It is, of course, still summer, and the air and soil remain quite warm. However, as we move into late summer over the next few weeks, many good crops await planting, mostly as young plants bought at garden centers.
Already, you probably see plants that are at or near the end of their productive season and can soon be removed to make way for fall crops. These include such space grabbers as cucumbers and yellow squash. And you may discover pockets of bare ground that are ready to receive small plantings of leaf lettuce or spinach.
These two crops should be high on your list and should perform well whether you sow seeds or set out young plants. When sowing seeds, make small plantings every 10 days or so from mid-August to late-September. As the weather cools, these leafy greens will keep going through the fall and well into winter.
If winter is on the mild side, you can pick these crops a long time.
Garden centers also offer young plants of leaf lettuce and spinach that go into the ground easily and don’t need as much protection from hot, late-summer sun as do seedlings.
Also consider growing these crops in large containers, to replace summer flowers that have played out or that you want to replace.
Two root crops, beets and carrots, also make good fall crops. Both require very loose, deeply dug soil so the roots have an easy way to expand to their best size. Be sure to thin the seedlings to the space recommended on the package for the variety. The mature size, especially of carrots, can vary widely.
Another two good crops that should be grown from young plants sold in garden centers are broccoli and brussels sprouts. They take some space and can go in the ground this month. Their roots are especially keen to develop in the slowly cooling soil of late summer and autumn. Spacing is important. Broccoli plants should go in the ground about 18 inches apart; brussels sprouts, about 20 inches apart. Make sure seedlings and young plants do not dry out.