Fresh vegetables from the home garden don’t have to be a thing of the past once summer days wane. Mid-summer is the perfect time to start a second garden that will extend your harvesting. Many crops even produce and taste better as temperatures cool while warmer months would have them bolting, tasting bitter or becoming woody. Here are the top 7 must grow vegetables for end of summer planting:
1. Kale. Healthy kale is by far the most tolerant of the cool weather crops and will survive down to 20 F. (-7 C). Kale matures in 40-65 days.
2. Collards. Collard greens come in a close second and fair well down into the 20’s. They also mature in 40-65 days.
3. Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts are right behind kale and collard greens for cold tolerance. They take a while to mature, 90-100 days, so take a bit of planning.
4. Peas. A second crop of sweet garden peas can be yours well into the fall months as they tolerate temperatures down into the 20’s as well. Peas mature in 70-80 days.
5. Radish. Radishes add color and zest to salads and take very little time to mature, 25-60 days depending upon the variety.
6. Spinach. Speaking of greens, one of the most versatile, spinach survives light frost and may even over winter. Plus, it can be eaten fresh or cooked and even frozen for later use.
7. Turnips. Turnips are lovely root veggies that store well (4-5 months in the refrigerator!). They will survive a light frost and take about 50-60 days to mature.
There are plenty of other crops suited for planting mid-summer for a late fall harvest. Be sure to check the first frost date for your area. This will enable you to decide exactly when to sow each crop. Next, prepare the garden bed for planting by removing any previous crop detritus and tilling down 6-8 inches (15-20 cm). Incorporate a complete 10-10-10 fertilizer into the soil at this time or plenty of organic matter.
If sowing seeds, be aware that they should be sown deeper than if sown in the spring, 1 ½ to 2 times deeper. Water the seeds in well and continue to provide an inch of water per week depending upon weather conditions. Keep an eye on the weather. You may need to protect the crop from early frost, especially if the plants are tender and immature. Cover them with sheets, row covers, old blankets or even newspaper or cardboard, but never plastic! Plastic transfers cold. Use some type of support to keep the material you use from squishing the plants.