Time to Start Thinking About Fall…Gardens, That Is

— Written By Bill Hanlin and last updated by JoAnne Gryder

Although many summer vegetable gardens are still very productive, it is time to think about a fall garden. The time for planting is at hand, or close to it, for those people who like to grow their own cool season crops. Here are some tips for growing cool season vegetables.

Most cool season crops include beets, lettuce, turnips, broccoli, cabbage, and leafy greens. These crops have better eating quality when they grow and are harvested in cool weather. Although the temperature is warm now, it will be ideal when these plants mature.

Some cool season plants are less tolerant of temperatures below 32 degrees F than others and should be harvested before a killing frost. These crops include peas, beets,fall 2 and carrots. Other crops like cabbage, spinach, and collards can withstand temperatures below 28 degrees, so the threat of subfreezing weather is not a concern.

When to plant fall crops depends on what you are planting. Beets, broccoli and collards should be planted anywhere from mid-July to early August. Cabbage, kale, lettuce and spinach should be planted in August. If seeds are planted then make sure the soil does not dry out during the warm days of July and August.

Even some summer vegetables like beans, cucumbers, and squash can be planted now since it takes a relatively short time for these plants to mature. Crops like tomatoes, peppers and sweet corn should not be planted at this time since they will probably not mature before our first killing frost that normally occurs in mid-October.

One problem with a cool season garden planted in the fall is the number of pests that have had time to build up over the summer. Caterpillars, in particular, can quickly damage your garden if left untreated. Diseases that require warm, moist conditions will also be more of a problem in the fall than in the spring.