Plant Now for Fall Harvest

By Mara Higdon

(This article first appeared in The Gateway Gardener July 2009 issue.)

While sweating in the July heat, the last thing you think about is planning the planting for the fall harvest.  However, there are a variety of veggies such as broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, beets, turnips and more that can be planted now into August to ensure that you’re still munching on something tasty come October and November!  With the proper coverage, you can even plant late fall crops such as spinach, carrots, and onions to be harvested come spring.

Plant transplants, if possible, and choose fast-maturing varieties that are ready in 40-60 days.  If planting seeds, add one week onto the harvesting date to figure out when to plant.  The average frost date for the St. Louis area is around October 20th or so.  If you plant too late your crops may not have enough time to mature.

The day before planting, water the garden site to provide immediate moisture for the seeds to germinate.  Plant seeds a little deeper than normal and water once covered. For seeds, cover with remay fabric until the seeds sprout.  Plant transplants, water well, and mulch with leaf mulch to keep the soil moist.  Yes, late summer veggie seedlings and seeds will need daily watering till cooler temperatures move in and the plants become more established.  Turn the hose on them while you’re in the garden harvesting the last of your summer crops.

When the cold temperatures and frost arrives, don’t despair.  You can extend the season a little longer by mulching with straw or leaves.  You can even use white plastic to construct a make shift hoop house or use a cold frame to cover and insulate your fall harvest.  Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the fruits and veggies of your labors in the form of fall lettuce salads and body-warming stews of carrots, beans, and cabbage.

Mara Higdon is Program Director at Gateway Greening, Inc. They focus on community development through gardening throughout the St. Louis area. You can reach her at 314-588-9600.