Growing Fantastic Fall Vegetables

While we may be coming to the end of summer, there’s still plenty to look forward to in the vegetable garden this year.  While the tomatoes, peppers, and beans are in their high production, you should be thinking ahead to something new in the garden.

Many gardeners run out first thing after frost in the spring and plant their garden, never thinking about planting again for the rest of the year.  But if you really want to get the most from your garden, you’ll want to plant now for some tasty treats in the fall and even early winter.

Many of the plants we plant for fall gardens can tolerate frosts or even light freezes. There’s still plenty of time to plant leafy greens like kale, chard, spinach, and more for this fall.  As well as radishes, beets, and even carrots.  Last week, my colleague @unlscottevans talked about planting leaf lettuce for the fall, and there’s still plenty of time to do that, too.  There are some tips to keep in mind when planning and planting your fall vegetable garden.  You could possibly still get some cabbage, broccoli, and other cole crops in for the fall, keeping in mind that you may need to use season extension like a row cover or low tunnel to protect them later on.

Some people may even sneak in a late planting of warm season crops like beans, cucumbers, and squash. It’s a little late to get those in, but you could also protect them if a frost comes a long.

You’ll need to do some math to make sure what you want to plant will survive, especially if it isn’t frost tolerant.

  1.   Look up your average date of first frost.  This is when the first frost of the fall is generally expected, keeping in mind that it could be earlier or later.  You can use this map.
  2. Look on the seed packet or plant tag how many days it is to maturity.
  3. If the plant does not tolerate frost, add 14 days as a harvest window and 14 days for the “fall factor” meaning that the plant’s growth will take longer as temperatures drop.  You don’t need to add these for frost/freeze tolerant plants.
  4. Add the 28 days (or 0 days) to the days to maturity.
  5. Using a calendar, count BACKWARDS from the expected average first frost date the number of days you added up in #4.
  6. This is the latest that you can plant and expect a harvest.  Keep in mind that the frost and freeze tolerant crops will survive beyond the frost date and may continue to grow, but the majority of their growth will occur before colder weather.  You want to aim to get them to harvestable size before it gets too cold.

 

John Porter
Urban Agriculture Program Coordinator at Nebraska Extension

John Porter is the Urban Ag Program Coordinator for Nebraska Extension and Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, serving both as an extension educator and professor of urban agriculture. He specializes in urban agriculture and horticulture, especially in the areas of vegetable and fruit production for home gardens and urban farms and edible landscaping.


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