Our night-time temps are cooling – and the hours of sunshine are growing less each day. These are the right conditions to plant leafy greens, root crops and tender herbs for fall harvest. The cooler weather with less sunlight is more growth friendly for many of these plants that don’t thrive as well during the heat of summer. Flavor fact: Green leafy vegetables – kale, spinach, lettuce, collard greens and chard – also stay sweeter as the sun gets less intense. Late August into early September is also a great time to plant broccoli and root crops such as beets, carrots and radishes. Cauliflower doesn’t get a high recommendation because it takes too long to mature when planted this time of year. Because root crops take time to develop, read the seed packets and look for varieties that mature in 60 days or less. The root crops can withstand light frost and with deep ground freeze protection, can even be picked well into the winter. Basil, parsley, cilantro, chervil and dill are great herbs to plant this time of year. Bear in mind that they won’t survive a frost unless you provide them with frost protection. Though we often have an early frost toward late September, we usually get right back to warm weather and good growing conditions. Herbs are also easily grown in containers. By planting them in containers that can be easily moved, they can be brought indoors for overnight frost protection. Whether you move them inside or cover them outdoors, herbs can keep offering their flavorful harvest right up until there’s a killing freeze. Tips for late-season planting:
- The most important step to get seeds established is to keep the seeds and seedlings evenly moist until the plants are a few weeks old. Make sure the sprinkler system is adjusted to water these areas evenly and that the watering times don’t over- or under-water the new seeds.
- Apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer every other week.
- Apply a layer of well-seasoned compost to nurture the soil.
- With the danger of early frost increasing from around September 20th onward, it’s important to be ready with frost protection in advance.
- Use old sheets/blankets – or specialty frost protection available at garden centers – to cover plants.
- Avoid using plastic as a cover because it offers no protection.
You can even string old Christmas tree lights (not LED lights because they have no warmth) on stakes under the coverings to keep your plants really warm.
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