Late summer is the ideal time to start your fall garden. You may be able to grow a “second season” crop of your favourite cool-season vegetables and lovely fall flowers. Now is the time to gear up for some additional growing weather, which lies in the cooler season ahead.
WHAT TO GROW
Sometimes, gardeners don’t bother to plant later in the summer because they think of a garden as something to be planted in spring. You still may be able to get another crop of some varieties of things like lettuce, salad greens and radish.
Even in cold-winter areas, some vegetables can still be grown to maturity before first frost. When choosing varieties, select ones that are fast maturing to ensure a harvest before the cold weather hits. Consider extending your planting season even more by growing crops under cold frames and row covers. Now is also a good time to start seeds of many flowering perennials. Sown in fall, many will be ready to start flowering by the following spring or summer.
WHEN TO START
The key to growing vegetables for fall harvest is timing. Vegetables grown in this season need about 14 extra days to mature compared with spring-seeded crops due to fall’s shorter days and less intense sunshine. When deciding the date to start your veggies, first determine your average first frost date. Then look at the seed packet for days to maturity. Add 14 days to that number, then use that figure to calculate back to seed-starting date.
Remember that sowing seeds or setting out transplants later in summer can be more stressful to young plants than seeding during cooler, often wetter spring weather. Be sure to keep the soil moist as seeds are germinating. Protect young seedlings with shade cloth or plant them near taller plants, such as corn or tomatoes to provide shade from the hot afternoon sun. Another option is to start seeds in containers in a spot with high, bright light and then transplant young seedlings into the garden. This works well for crops like lettuce, whose seeds don’t germinate as well when soil temperatures are high.
With a little effort, you just may be able to enjoy another crop of fresh greens in the fall.