Second plantings or fall gardening Whatever you call this midsummer activity, the purpose is the same: to extend the growing season and get more out of your valuable garden space, even beyond summer’s peak.
When your plots generate food from spring through summer and until the first frost, vegetable growing pays off the most. Just because you’ve harvested your early-maturing vegetables doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy them or put your gardening gloves aside come August. In fact, many crops can be planted in the middle of the summer for a fall harvest in many parts of the country. And who doesn’t appreciate being able to enjoy the results of their efforts for eight months of the year rather than just a few?
The following pointers will help you make the most of your garden space and produce more local fruits and veggies.
Know Your Hardiness Zone and First Frost Date
Knowing your region’s average first frost date will allow you to determine “planting deadlines” so that your young plants have enough time to mature before the first frost. The USDA hardiness zone map can help you determine whether or not a particular plant will thrive and survive in your area. These two tools will assist you in determining not just which crops to plant, but also when those crops should be planted.
Choosing The Right Crops
Plants that mature quickly and those that resist frost are both strong chances for thriving when planted in midsummer.
Because shorter days/less daylight and cooler air temperatures combine to inhibit plant growth, crops planted in the summer months take longer to mature than those planted in the spring. (What’s the good news? While it will take longer for your fall plants to mature, they will be less vulnerable to pests.)
Add a few more days to the “days to maturity” guidelines normally seen on seed packets to get at your summer planting date. Beets, bush beans, carrots, cucumbers, kohlrabi, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, and zucchini are all quick-maturing vegetables. If some of those quick-maturing crops don’t mature quickly enough to avoid the first frost, you may easily protect them from too-cold temperatures with row cover or garden cloth.
Most brassicas (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and kohlrabi), as well as carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, scallions, spinach, and turnips, will tolerate a little frost and continue to grow even when temperatures dip. Some of these cold-tolerant veggies, such as kale and Brussels sprouts, actually taste better when cultivated in cooler temperatures because they produce sugars in response to the cold, which sweetens them. While spinach, turnips, rutabagas, and scallions can be planted directly, most brassicas must be started indoors weeks before the June planting season.
Cool and Enrich the Soil
Summer, of course, brings heat, and toasty temperatures can easily roast newly sprouted seeds. The best way to prevent that from happening is to keep the soil moist, mulched, and shaded, if possible. Natural shade from a trellis or tall plant, for example, can be used to create a cool location for seeding a second crop. Finally, don’t forget the importance of rich soil—be sure to replenish the nutrients in the soil between plantings by mixing in compost and organic fertilizer.