By Steve Boehme
Summer isn’t just about harvesting the vegetables you planted in the spring. Serious gardeners are getting started with their late season crops during the next few weeks, and it’s a bigger deal than you might think. In our garden center we’ve had a brisk demand for late season vegetable plants and seeds; for many gardeners, this is just another phase of the gardening season.
If you haven’t thought about planting vegetables in August, think again. There’s still time to get another rotation of beans and basil before the first frost, if you plant them now. In order to enjoy fresh salad greens, root crops, Brussels sprouts and cabbage this fall and winter, you should be planting these as space becomes available in your garden.
Many garden vegetables will survive light frosts. You can still get good crops of broccoli, cauliflower, cilantro, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, and turnips if you plant them soon. We have plants or seeds for these right now.
Hardier still; beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, green onion, kale and peas will survive temperatures into the high 20’s. Planting them in August is realistic and will extend your food production season into November or even December. Again, we have seeds or live plants available now for most of these crops, by popular demand.
Leafy vegetables, such as Swiss chard, kale and mustard greens can be harvested before the leaves reach full size. Often these small leaves are more tender and tasty than mature ones. Shade from taller plants may help improve the quality of summer-grown lettuce, as will selecting varieties suited for warm weather. These crops can be planted in succession every few weeks will provide a steady supply of young leaves. Lettuce tends to bolt and taste bitter when grown in the heat of summer, so plant them in partial shade or wait until temperatures cool to plant a late crop.
Garlic planted in September produces the biggest bulbs the following July, so after harvesting a late-maturing crop, you can plant garlic in that space.
Before sowing these second crops, turn over the soil and mix in some balanced fertilizer to replace what earlier plants have used up. We recommend Garden Tone by Espoma. Another way to replenish your soil is by adding an inch or two of mushroom compost and cultivating it in.
If you haven’t tried sowing seed or planting late vegetable plants in August, you might want to try it this year. Fall vegetables are less likely to suffer from insect infestations or get choked out by weeds. Instead of turning your back on your vegetable garden once you’ve harvested your spring and summer crops, why not experiment with extending your growing season? You’ll be glad you did.
Steve Boehme and his wife Marjorie own GoodSeed Nursery & Landscape, located near Winchester, Ohio at 9736 Tri-County Highway. More information is available at www.goodseedfarm.com or call (937) 587-7021.