Mid-August to the middle of September is the prime time to plant if you want to continue to harvest fresh veggies before winter comes. Hopefully you have been picking the delicious fruits and veggies that you’ve been babying since spring like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, zucchini, and squash.
There are some things you can do now to keep the plants producing, such as top dressing with fertilizer or compost and applying a layer of mulch to keep the soil moist and the weeds down. Garden cleanup such as some pruning of all the plants in your garden where needed and clearing out brown drooping leaves and fading flowers with your pruners, which will keep them from ending up on the ground underneath where insects a perfect place to hide. Keeping insect damage to a minimum and providing some new places to plant vegetables that do well with the cooler weather are two steps that should be taken to keep everything thriving.
Keeping Your Plants Protected from Bugs & Early Frost
These late summer plantings should be protected by shading them with row cover material, like the GCI Row Cover, which shields plants from thesun, wind, and insects. When a surprise overnight early frost shows up in the fall, the row cover also can help as it will keep the plant starts safe with up to 4 degrees of protection. This material is an easy way to prolong the growing season. The cooler weather enables us to garden with fewer weeds, fewer insects, while enjoying a more temperate climate. The following veggies tend to be loaded with nutrients too!
Top Plants to Grow in Your Fall Vegetable Garden
Lettuce is one veggie that I miss during the hot days of summer. Planting them now will allow you to be harvesting for the 2-3 upcoming months. Peas and beans are often grown with lettuce as a companion crop. If you like to cook Mexican food, cilantro is an easy to grow and an excellent fall crop. These plants can be directly sown into the soil with starts from your local nursery or from seed that will be available at the same businesses.
Carrots come in many colors. Yellow, orange, purple, or even red are all commonly grown by nearby organic farmers. They are quick growing and should be ready to harvest by the end of October if the soil remains moist from beginning to end. Soaker Dripline is a terrific product that can water a raised bed of carrots easily. Spread the seeds thinly in straight rows just a quarter of an inch deep along the line of the Soaker Dripline. Spray the soil after you cover the seeds and mulch. After a few weeks, thin the carrot sprouts out to 3-4 inches apart.
Beets also love the cool autumn weather. At our house we love beet salad. After taking them from our garden, we boil the beets, refrigerate them, and then cut them into 1” or less cubes before adding them to our green salads. If planted in early September, they will be ready to harvest with the coolest weather at the end of October or early November. Use a layer of mulch to protect the plants from early frost.
Parsley is an easy indoor container plant to have on a kitchen windowsill or protected with row cover on the south side of the house. It is a tasty addition to your daily salad while also being a rich source of vitamin C.
Kale, Chard, & Broccoli
Kale and Swiss Chardcan handle temperatures down to the low 20’s and can even last through the winter in northern California. I recommend buying starts of dinosaur kale and rainbow chard and planting them in a sunny location 2 feet apart with good drainage. Both can be steamed, sauteed, or added to smoothies along with carrots and beets.
Broccoli, a rich source of vitamin A, potassium, iron, and fiber is a vegetable in the brassica family which also includes some other vegetables I’ve mentioned like kale and cabbage.