Late-Summer Planting Yields Fall Vegetables

Plant in summer for fall crops

A July sowing of mesclun mix.

Seeds germinate fast when the soil is already nice and warm. For delicious, picture-perfect fall crops of spinach, lettuce, peas, kale and broccoli, now’s the time to plant. Here are four easy steps to ensure your success.

  • Pull Some, Plant Some. As soon as any early season plants have passed their prime, pull them out and replant. Even little sections where a cucumber plant expired or the cilantro went to seed. Put the old plants in your compost pile, then aerate and replenish the soil by forking in some compost and organic fertilizer. Rake the surface smooth and sow something new!
  • Shade netting

    Shade netting protects crops from summer sun and heat.

  • Screen the Sun. For good late-summer germination, it's important to keep the soil surface from drying out and not let soil temperatures rise over 80 degrees F. Wire hoops and shade netting are an easy solution. Fall-planted seeds should be sown twice as deep as in the spring. Natural shade from a trellis or tall plant can also provide a good spot for seeding a second crop. When cold weather arrives, keep plants warm with a floating Row Cover.
  • Sow the Right Crops. Plants that thrive in fall weather include: carrots, beets, broccoli, Swiss chard, kale and all kinds of salad and Asian greens. Choose disease-resistant varieties that mature quickly. All can be direct-sown into the garden, though broccoli can also be started indoors under lights or in a greenhouse. If planting a fall crop of peas, choose bush peas rather than traditional climbers.
  • Don't Delay. Summer-planted crops usually require an extra two weeks to mature (because days are shorter and air temperatures are cooler). Using the days-to-maturity figure on the seed packet, count back from your fall frost date, then add a 14-day "fall factor". This will give you your fall planting date.

Kathy LaLiberté is an award-winning writer and founding employee of Gardener's Supply. She gardens in Richmond, Vt.

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