Plant Seeds Now for a Tasty Fall Harvest
It’s already August, and believe it or not, fall is just around the corner. Many gardeners let their gardens just peter out at the end of the season, but now is the perfect time to plant seeds for another wave of tasty veggies in September, October and beyond. Here’s what to plant right now for a fall harvest.
Why You Should Grow a Fall Food Garden
Most of us are focused on growing food in spring and summer, but fall can easily be the most productive time to plant seeds in the garden. Here are just a few fall food garden benefits:
- Warm late-summer temperatures mean fast germination and early growth
- Late summer harvests mean more space to grow more food
- Cool season crops, such as turnips and lettuce, can get a second chance in the fall
- Common bugs and diseases from spring may not be as active in early fall
- Cooler temperatures and less sunlight mean leafy greens taste sweeter and are less likely to bolt (flower)
- Some crops, like carrots and salad greens, taste sweeter after a light autumn frost
- With some straw and row covers, you can harvest cold season crops well into November and even December
Veggies to Plant Now for a Tasty Fall Harvest
If you had a couple summer plant failures like me (it happens), now is the time to turn the page and plant seeds for a productive fall garden. These veggies will perform well in the cooler days of autumn:
Turnips are one of the fastest sow-to-harvest veggies out there. Nice and compact, and very cold tolerant, turnips are perfect for filling in empty garden spaces in the fall. White Lady Hybrid Turnip from Park Seed is a fast-maturing extra-fancy turnip that produces tender edible greens and tasty white globes. The flesh is crisp and sweet, and the turnips can be harvested when they reach 2.5 inches in diameter for optimum freshness. A packet contains 600 seeds!
Lettuce: Plant Seeds Now
Lettuce is a favorite edible to grow in backyard gardens, but sometimes it can get bitter and bolt in the heat of summer. Unfortunately, that means pulling it out of the ground much earlier than most of us would like. But a fall crop of lettuce will last a typical family for months–especially with a little extra frost protection.
Plant seeds for your favorite lettuce blend in mid-to-late August for a long-lasting harvest in fall. Mini Romaine Blend Lettuce Seeds offer a selection of baby Romaine lettuces that mature quickly with all the flavor of full-sized varieties. This blend consists of two of the most popular mini varieties–Truchas and Breen. Truchas is an upright grower that’s fully mature when its crimson leaves reach 6-8 inches tall. It’s also incredibly disease resistant. Breen is a bit slower growing, with medium reddish leaves that’s great for leaf-by-leaf harvesting. These beautiful little plants can be harvested about a month and a half from sowing seeds directly into the garden.
The fastest way to get a harvest of salad greens is to grow Micro Mini Greens. This premium mix of red and green lettuce varieties is ready to harvest just 15 days after sowing. These are complete plants in miniature form, and you can eat the entire plant. The combination of smooth leaves and curly leaves is a delight in salads. For an extended harvest, sow seeds every 2 weeks for a continuing harvest. (You can even grow Micro Mini Greens indoors in a container if you wish.) Both of these lettuce blends are available from www.ParkSeed.com.
A tasty superfood, spinach is a garden favorite pretty much everywhere. However, spinach is a true cool season crop, so plants have an annoying tendency to bolt (a.k.a. flower) as soon as the weather warms up. But sowing spinach for a fall harvest can be much more productive. Like lettuce, spinach is grown for its leaves, so you don’t have to wait for flowering and fruiting. Plus, the leaves can be harvested leaf by leaf so the plants keep producing them.
Some spinach varieties have been delighting gardeners for decades. Bloomsdale Organic Hybrid Spinach is a favorite heirloom variety for its rich flavor and pleasing texture. This wonderful plant reaches 10-12 inches tall and just 8 inches wide, so it fits almost anywhere in a garden. Bloomsdale loves to grow in full sun in the fall. Another great spinach choice is Baby Leaf Riverside. This is such a quick-growing plant that you can harvest the baby leaves in just 27 days! The smooth, dark green, spade-shaped leaves are delicious in salads and stir-fry dishes. Both of these seed varieties are available directly from Park Seed.
An increasing number of gardeners love growing and harvesting carrots in the fall. Late summer is the perfect time to plant seeds, because the warm soil lets them germinate and grow much faster than in spring. And as the temperatures start to cool down, their tasty roots get sweeter and sweeter. Try letting them experience a light overnight freeze for an extra-sweet harvest the next morning. Yum!
Mini Adelaide Hybrid Carrots are ideal for small gardens and containers. This Nantes-type carrot is mature at only 4 inches long, so it’s a perfect choice for fall gardens. These dark-orange, blunt-tipped carrots are packed with flavor, and they are ready to pick in only 50 days from planting. Buy seed packets online at www.ParkSeed.com.
Broccoli is one the few flowering plants that performs well in autumn. This cool season veggie is best planted in late summer to give it a good head start, so it will produce beautifully as the weather cools. Even in USDA Zone 6, broccoli can continue to produce into early December.
One of the most popular varieties of broccoli is called Green Magic Hybrid, which is known for its productive nature and its smooth, buttery flavor. Green Magic sets smooth, nicely domed heads with mid-size beads that are very tightly packed. If you want to try something a little different, Aspabroc is a fun variety. Introduced about 20 years ago, Aspabroc is a cross of two types of broccoli: Italian Sprouting and Chinese Kale (also known as Gai Lan), a leafy, thick-stemmed type with delicious flavor. Aspabroc takes its name from the asparagus-like look and texture of its slender stems, but this is 100% broccoli, with a peppery-sweet flavor you will love. The key to harvesting Aspabroc is to cut the plant’s central crown as soon as it’s formed. Doing this will lead to great side-shoot production, which will produce tasty crowns and stems for many weeks. Seeds for Green Magic Hybrid Broccoli and Aspabroc Hybrid Broccoli are available from Park Seed.
Pole beans are not particularly cold tolerant, but they mature so quickly that when you plant seeds in fall for a fast-maturing variety, the plants can easily produce a delicious crop of beans for an autumn crop. In fact, some are ready to harvest in only 5-6 weeks. Just make sure you sow them soon, and give them protection in case of a very early freeze.
A gourmet French climbing bean called Algarve is a great choice for fall sowing. It matures in 52 days, and the flavor of the beans is phenomenal. (Algarve was honored by the Royal Horticulture Society with its coveted Award of Garden Merit.) The bean pods are very uniform and flattish in shape, and they are completely stringless. Give them a pole or trellis to climb on and you’ll be rewarded with a generous harvest of beans that look as good as they taste. Algarve French Climbing Bean Seeds are available from Park Seed.
Another plant that grows well in the cooler temperatures of autumn is cauliflower. Flamenco Hybrid Cauliflower is a traditional white variety that produces dense, impressive heads that are packed with nutrition and flavor. For a completely different look, try growing an orange cauliflower this fall. The striking pastel-orange heads of Flame Star Hybrid Cauliflower are packed with great flavor and lots of beta-carotene. Plus, they simply look cool. This veggie is great for eating fresh as well as cooked. Get seeds for these varieties now from Park Seed and plant them right away for a delicious harvest at the end of your gardening season.
So don’t let your summer garden disappointment get you down. Plant seeds now for fall crops and you can revitalize your garden– and your spirits– with a new wave of fresh, tasty food. Plant seeds for a fall season of happy gardening!
Jessica Wood is also known as the Frugal Garden Gal. Read more of her stories at FrugalGardenGal.com
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