Jackie Greene is a blogger, gardener, and nutrition enthusiast. She enjoys creating organic meals for family and friends using the fresh ingredients she produces from her backyard homestead.
Being on a homestead means that you are always trying to look for ways to use your space well. Many homesteaders fin creative ways of using recycled materials as well as fixing problems without having to make a run to the hardware store. Your summer garden isn’t any different in its ability to still be valuable although the temperatures are becoming cooler with each passing day. Here is a simplified guide on how to reuse your summer garden for second season crops.
Prepare the Area
You won’t need to prepare your entire garden for a second season crop planting due to the fact that not everything can be grown during the cooler fall season. Take stock of areas of your garden that did well this year and think about using those spots to house your second planting of cooler season plants. Consider certain plant requirements, like having something for peas to climb, in your choice to prepare the soil. Make sure to remove any debris from a summer harvest and till up the soil in order to provide fresh bedding for fall vegetables.
Choose Your Plants
Second season crops are going to be those plants that have shorter maturation times compared to other summer vegetables. Those plants that do well will also be considered cool season crops that prefer the cooler temperatures of fall. Many of the options for second season crops may be ones that you also tried to plant in the early spring depending on your homestead’s location.
There are plenty of options for second season crops including lettuce, spinach, radish, peas, broccoli, and beets plus many more. Consider these growing periods and details about cool weather crops.
Most varieties of lettuce mature between 45-55 days. Make sure to stay away from those that take longer in order to ensure a good harvest. Plant a few rounds of lettuce and harvest last as it can usually withstand a light frost.
This heart healthy vegetable is great as a second season crop due to its quick maturation. Plant a few rounds of spinach and enjoy within 4-6 weeks later. Use in salads, soups, or casseroles.
As a spicy vegetable, radishes are great to add to salads and soups for some extra flavor. Plant them in good soil and pick them about 1-2 months after planting. Smaller radishes have better flavor so check back often to make sure to harvest when ready.
Peas are one of the best vegetables to grow in a second season crop because they mature in 2 months. Peas can be eaten right off the vine and are best to use right after harvesting. Peas will grow up due to their vining nature so make sure to plant them near something that they can easily climb.
If your homestead is in a colder location, broccoli is a great option as a second season crop due to being able to germinate in soil temperatures as low as 40°F. It takes longer to produce mature heads, about 80-90 days after planting, so make sure to plant this crop in late summer to early fall.
Known for their deep red color in many fall dishes, beets are a great vegetable to add to your homestead. Plant them farther apart in loamy acidic soils and allow them to grow for 8-10 weeks. Use them in soups or stews as well as a side dish to add important vitamins and minerals to your homestead table.
Know When to Plant
Second season crops should all have a maturation time of 10 weeks or less to make sure that your efforts are not in vain. Consider your homestead’s location and know when to expect the first frost in your area. Some crops, like lettuce, can survive after the first frost as long as it was light.
Check the average arrival of the first frost in your area from the past few years to make the best guess on when to expect your fall gardening to end this year. When planting a second season crop, make sure to consider the changing of the growing period during the day with less sunlight and warmth available. Consider adding 1-2 weeks to the growing period of the crop to make sure that you get a harvest before the first frost arrives.
Consider Planting in Rounds
There are a few cool-season crops that would do well if you spaced out their planting times. It would be beneficial to plant quick growing options like lettuce, spinach, and herbs in rounds a few weeks apart. This would help to supply your homestead with fresh produce as well as spread out the bounty of the harvest. For homesteads who sell their produce at farmers markets, consider planting these easy vegetables on a weekly basis to offer customers the freshest options that matured just that week.
Be Ready to Harvest
Some second season crops can be harvested at different stages of the growing period. For example, loose leaf lettuce and spinach can be harvested at any point before being deemed mature and can oftentimes be a different flavor due to being in an earlier stage of growth. Radishes are another cool season vegetable that are better when picked at a smaller size before full maturity has been reached. Make sure to keep an eye on crops to know when the right time to pick them would be for maximum flavor.
Another aspect of harvesting your second season crops is to consider timing. Depending on the daily hustle and bustle of your homestead, there may be a small window of time when you realize that you need to harvest before that first frost arrives. As temperatures continue to drop, make sure to stay aware of the nightly low temperatures to harvest before frost arrives. Note any quick changes in temperature or a surprise frost that arrives with a storm that could kill your entire harvest. Have family members ready to help harvest with plenty of tubs for storage in case you are outside harvesting it all at night by flashlight before temperatures dip below freezing.
Make sure to take into consideration these tips for continuing to grow vegetables well into the fall for fresh additions to your meals. Reusing the summer garden for second season crops is a great way to make full use of the land on your homestead along with providing nutritious food for your family.