People tend to think of growing vegetables, and gardening in general, as a springtime activity. The truth, however, is that many vegetables not only adapt well to late-summer planting but actually produce better-quality, better-tasting foods if harvested in the fall or early winter, according to the Purdue University Department of Horticulture.
The extent to which you may be able to grow late-harvest vegetables depends heavily on where you try to grow them. If you are in Florida or California, where the weather remains warm throughout the year, then you tend to have far more options than someone in an extremely cold climate such as North Dakota, according to WinterGardeningTips.com.
In addition to actual temperature in the late summer and fall, some places receive far more rain than others. Planting your vegetables in a raised bed, which allows excess water to drain from the vegetables' roots, is a possible solution.
Sometimes planting seeds in the late summer means planting them in hot, dry soil. This can cause the soil to form a hard crust over the seeds and affect proper germination, according to the Purdue University Department of Horticulture. Use a light mulch, compost or peat moss to cover the seed row to prevent this problem. Use a tiller to break up the soil at least 6 inches deep, and mix fertiliser with the soil. Ensure that the soil is free of weeds and residue from previous crops planted in the same area.
Many vegetables are good choices for late-summer planting. Winter squash and pumpkins often are associated with the fall harvest, but because pumpkins and squash grow for a considerable amount of time (up to five months), they may not thrive as well in locations with an early fall frost. Some slower growing plants are better suited for late planting than others. So keep in mind when the items will be ready to enjoy compared to your local weather patterns.
Some vegetables tend to get damaged by light frost, such as pumpkins, beans, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and watermelon. More tolerant of light frost are beets, carrots, cauliflower, celery, lettuce and white potatoes such as Idaho potatoes.
Meanwhile, some of the best vegetables for late-summer planting are broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard and mustard greens, radishes, spinach and turnips because of their ability to withstand the first hard frost, according to the Purdue University Department of Horticulture.
Most of these weather-tolerant veggies grow well into the winter and can be planted very late in the summer in areas where the winters are mild. Even moderately cold temperatures do not prevent these vegetables from reaching their full potential. In places where winter comes early and the first hard frost comes before November, however, it may be necessary to plant in midsummer rather than in late summer, or stick with your early spring planting. If you choose to plant in midsummer, care must be taken to ensure proper hydration levels and shading from intense sunlight.
Stock Up Early
If you plan a late-summer planting, stock up on your seeds in the spring. The reason for this is that many people choose to do the majority of their gardening in the warmer growing season and also plan ahead for the fall. If you wait until you are ready to plant in late summer, some seeds may be hard to find.