Sowing seeds for a late crop is a great way to extend the harvest in your vegetable garden.
By August and September, you can see what has and hasn’t worked out in your vegetable garden so far this growing season. If there is a crop that’s already finished or hasn’t done well, it’s not too late to replace it with a late-season harvest. Seeds are an effective, inexpensive way to do this. Here are some fall crops to try:
Many salad greens – such as lettuce, mesclun mix, garden cress (Lepidium sativum), arugula, and spinach – prefer cooler temperatures, and are ideal for a fall harvest.
If you are sowing mesclun mix or want to harvest baby leaves of other greens, you can sow them as late as three to five weeks before your average first frost. You can grow mesclun mix in a pot and bring it indoors when frost comes to further extend your harvest. You can also protect greens from early frosts with a row cover or other season extender to give you a longer harvest.
Garden cress literally becomes inedible in hot weather, the heat giving it a bitter taste. In cool fall temperatures, garden cress shines. It grows so fast that it can be harvested two to three weeks after sowing.
This is also a good time to sow hardy greens like baby bok choy/baby pak choy (Brassica rapa chinensis), mache/corn salad (Valerianella locusta), kale, and chard.
Baby bok choy is an Asian green that has become increasingly popular in North America in recent years. It is similar to its relative, cabbage, but has a more tender taste.
Mache is another green whose popularity is on the rise. It is so tender that it is usually used in salads, yet so cold-hardy that it sometimes survives being buried by snow.
Some greens prefer cool weather so much that they tend to taste sweeter after frosts begin. Many people find that kale and chard taste better to them after frost. Kale is so hardy that it can continue growing through snow. Siberian kale is the hardest of all kales, sometimes able to survive subzero (F) temperatures without protection.
If you have already harvested some of your root vegetables, take advantage of the open space to sow fast-growing root vegetables like carrots and radishes. Most carrots can be harvested as baby carrots, not just the cultivars that are specifically marketed that way.
Radishes grow so fast that many cultivars mature about a month after sowing. You can sow them into beds where you’re harvesting a few plants every few days so that the space for them will open up as they mature.
Depending on the average date your area gets its first hard frost (the kind of frost that kills many plants back to the ground), you can plant a fall crop of peas as late as the end of September. Frost tolerance of peas varies widely, so before you pick a cultivar for your fall crop, check how the cultivar reacts to frost. The heirloom cultivar “Dwarf Grey Sugar” is one that holds up especially well, sometimes growing through small snowfalls.
Fall is also the time to consider sowing a second crop of cool-weather herbs such as parsley, chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium), and dill. Because the weather is cooling off, they are unlikely to “bolt” (flower) and you should be able to keep harvesting them until frost kills them.
Fall sowing for a fresh crop is a way to make your vegetable garden’s space productive for the rest of the growing season. Experiment with sowing times, vegetables, and specific cultivars and see what works best in your area.
With the endless passion for organic living, I - Ann Sanders has come up with the idea of creating A Green Hand. Being the founder and editor of A Green Hand, my goal is to provide everyone with a wide range of tips about healthy lifestyle with multiform categories including gardening, health & beauty, food recipe,...