Friday, July 20, 2012

Autumn is on my mind: planting for a fall harvest

by Lili Mounce

While summer rages on, now is the time that I put my mind towards planting for an autumn harvest. Due to my lack of decent gardening skills, I have a lot of space in my vegetable garden to plant late season crops. Here in the Pacific Northwest of the US, gardens can be harvested into the early days of November, if you know what to plant. After the autumnal equinox, plants grow very little, but certain veggies can sustain themselves until a hard frost.


This week we are two months from the autumnal equinox, which means up north here, that it's time to plant seeds like kale, swiss chard, lettuce, collard greens, and green onions. These vegetables mature in 60-70 days, grow under  cool conditions and tolerate light to medium frosts.  The cabbage family vegetables improve in flavor after a frost, even. In another 3 weeks (about August 10) it will be time to plant spinach, mustard greens and radish. These three have a shorter growing period (about 30-45 days) than the first set of veggies.

If you live further north (Canada and northern parts of Europe and Scandinavia), you may be best to plant only the second set of vegetables, if your first frost date falls in early September.  If you live south of Oregon, and/or coastal, you may have 2 1/2 months or more of growing weather, plus harvest well past November. Adjust your late crop planting accordingly. And if you're in the Southern Hemisphere, lucky you, you're still in the garden dreaming stage. But it may be time to start some seedlings for your spring planting.

This week, I started seeds for swiss chard, leaf lettuce and kale. They are compact for my small garden and grow reliably well here. Swiss chard and kale also have the bonus of returning in early spring to give me fresh vegetables by late March.

I start my seeds indoors under a light, as seedlings tend to disappear to my abundance of slugs. I will plant mine out in the garden in 3-4 weeks. I also have been preparing the spots where they'll be transplanted -- pulling weeds, setting slug traps and pulling up any spent vegetables.

It only takes a few minutes to get new seeds started. But I'll be harvesting fresh vegetables for weeks as my reward.

6 comments:

  1. You've given me some fresh inspiration for our allotment...it's not been a good year so far as it's been VERY wet here, and the slugs have got the better of most of what we have planted. But all's not lost if we get some autumn crops growing.

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    1. Hi Sarah,
      Our summer has only been marginally better than yours. I woke to more rain today. Slugs and snails are enjoying a lovely feast in my garden. But I set out traps everywhere yesterday, and used some of the less toxic slug bait. I also cleared away the overgrown chives and sorrel that were providing a nice haven for them. I'm hoping to get my planting spots in good condition by the time I transplant the seedlings.

      Now on the positive side, with our rain, I haven't had to use city water for the garden. The rain barrels still have water in them. So not all bad. When do you get your first frost in Wiltshire? Do you have time to plant kale or chard? Some people also plant snow peas for a fall crop. I've not gotten enough of them in autumn to use my small space this way. But it's another veggie to consider.

      Good luck with your allotment.

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  2. We have had so much heat and so little rain that our garden was quickly taken over by weeds. So The Normanator has put in a fall garden which features green beans. He also put in some kale. Things are doing well because he has made it his life's mission to get out to water them three times a day every day. We have heat indexes these days of 108* so it's critical to baby these tender shoots. He also has put up a net to discourage critters from invading and partaking!

    Having fresh produce from your own yard is such a blessing and a bounty.

    Here's hoping you are staying cool...we just had ourselves an icy chocolate milk (with a touch of vanilla) break! Ah, pure refreshment!

    Hugs
    Mother Connie

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    1. Hi Connie,
      You've had the heat, and we've had the rain! So, the Normanator planted green beans for a fall harvest. That's a new one to me, especially for our area. I'm still waiting to harvest the summer green beans! But I do hope things cool off for you soon. I know so many folks are suffering with this heat and drought.
      Stay well!

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  3. I never thought of that! That's a good idea! My basil plants are more or less done--I was thinking about picking it all and putting it in the freezer. I have no idea what my oregano and parsley are doing... so I could harvest those and plant new stuff too!

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    1. Hi Mallory,
      When you think the basil is totally done, you could plant something else in its place. The oregano is perennial, so it should come back next year. And if parsley does the same thing there that it does here, then it is biennial, so it should come back for an early spring harvest, then go to seed mid-spring, so you could replace it with something then. At least that's the way it works in my garden.

      Basil freezes pretty well. Freezing keeps the flavor. You can also make pesto with your basil and your parsley, and freeze the pesto.
      Good luck with it!

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