Springtime isn’t the only time for planting seeds. Planting cooler-weather crops in the late summer can garner you fresh vegetables to harvest as the fall months start rolling in.
Depending on your zone, you will want to start planting seeds for a fall crop during August and September. (Remember, the lower number your zone is, the earlier you will see frost. Plant your crops early so you have time to harvest before the frost rolls in!)
No matter what you plant, make sure to amend your soil with compost, worm castings, or some other type of fertilizer prior to planting your fall crops. We’re used to amending soil in the Spring, and it’s easy to forget to do so when you are planting your next round of crops, particularly when half of your garden is still in full swing.
Also, be sure to plant your seeds deeper than you normally would for spring plantings, because the soil’s surface temperature is higher, and the moisture tends to be lower. You may also want to shade fall plantings to help keep the soil temperature lower.
August is a great time to plant peas, snow peas, sugar snaps, which like the cooler weather. Brassicas, including broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts will also do well in cooler temperatures. Celery also does well in the fall.
Root crops like carrots, turnips, and radishes will also be fine in the cooler weather. Make sure that your soil is loose and loamy for root crops, so they don’t have to fight through hard, compacted earth to grow.
Leafy greens, including cabbage, spinach, swiss chard, collards, and lettuces also appreciate the cooler temperatures. If you’d like to continue eating fresh salads through the winter, be sure to plant some of your greens in containers that can be carried indoors once the cold weather hits. I keep swiss chard, spinach, kale, and a variety of lettuces happily growing on my windowsills in 2-liter bottles (with the tops cut off) all winter long.
Now is also the time to get your garlic into the ground to harvest next year. Make sure to label the beds and rows, so you don’t do any Spring work in that area.
Onions should be planted very close to, or even after, the first frost. (If you are planting onion sets, rather than seed, definitely wait until after the first frost.) Make sure to mulch heavily with compost or composted manure, and then cover heavily with mulch once the cold weather really sets in.
If you are burnt out from gardening, but want to do something with your land to help prepare it for the next season, plant a cover crop like clover or rye. Fava beans also make for a great cover crop; the beans can be harvested in early winter, while the rest of the plant can be tilled into the earth. Fava beans also have a strong, deep taproot, which helps break up compacted soil. In the spring, you can till or work these cover crops back into the soil to add nitrogen and other nutrients.
Springtime isn’t the only time to get some seeds in the dirt! Pull up what isn’t working, or what has passed it’s prime, and get your fall garden started.