Plant Now for a Bountiful Fall Harvest- horticulturist and gardening expert
July 24, 2017
It’s not too late. Fill in those empty spaces or replant rows of early vegetable plantings that have already been harvested. But don’t stop there. Look for other plantable areas in flowerbeds, mixed borders and containers.
Select short season crops like carrots, beets, and beans that will reach maturity and can be harvested before the first killing frost. You’ll find frost dates for your location on the internet, extension publications, and other gardening resources. This date varies from year to year and from one neighborhood to the next. Gardens in the warmer urban heat islands are usually the last to suffer, while those growing in low spots or rural areas are the first to be damaged.
Summer plantings can be started from plants or seeds. Start by counting the number of days until the first fall frost. Next, check the plant tag or seed packet to find out how many days that particular plant needs to grow and produce. Let's use beans for example. The seed packet says this crop needs 50 to 60 days to mature or be ready to harvest. Add a little extra time for harvesting. We will need about 75 days to grow and harvest our beans before the first killing frost.
Cool weather crops like cabbage, collards, spinach, and lettuce not only tolerate a light frost but their flavor improves. This means you have a few more weeks to grow and harvest these crops.
And don't forget about transplants. Broccoli, cabbage, onions, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, collards and kale can be planted in summer for a fall harvest. And those gardening in milder climates have even more options.
Get the most out of your summer plantings by preparing the soil before planting seeds and transplants. Mix an inch of quality compost and Milorganite, low nitrogen slow release fertilizer into the top 6 inches of soil. You’ll improve the soil and feed your plants throughout the remainder of the season. Milorganite’s organic nitrogen won’t burn seedlings and transplants even when the weather is hot and dry.
Once your seeds and transplants are in the ground be sure to water properly. Keep the seedbed and roots of transplants moist the first few weeks. Gradually reduce watering frequency as seedlings sprout and grow and transplants become established. Water thoroughly whenever the top few inches of soil are crumbly and slightly moist.
Further extend the harvest season with a bit of frost protection. Cold frames and cloches (mini greenhouses for individual plants) create a frost-free environment for the plants. Vent them on warm sunny days and close the lids when frost is in the forecast.
Or try floating row cover fabrics designed to let air, light, and water through to the plants while protecting them from frost. Loosely cover the plants with the fabric and anchor the edges with stones, boards or landscape pins. Just lift to harvest, recover and leave in place until the harvest is complete or temperatures drop below what the row cover and plants can handle.
So check your calendar, seed packets, and plant tags and get planting.