Get Your Fall Garden Planted…It’s Not Too Late!

Photo: Virginia Hamrick / Istock

Last year I learned about the varied flavors of swiss chard after buying “unfamiliar” vegetables at the Farmers’ Market.  I enjoyed it so much I planted several swiss chard plants in late December.  I was concerned about the cold weather but I had an ongoing crop until June!   I also grew hydroponic  baby lettuce which is definitely a favorite of mine!

This year I want to get on a better “planting schedule” so I am getting my “bed” ready by covering it with clear plastic for about 6 weeks.  I learned this step kills nematodes in the soil at a recent Native Plant workshop.  What can it hurt, other than the nematodes which are one of a gardener’s biggest problems in Florida. The plan is to remove the plastic and get the seeds sowed by mid-September so I can enjoy lettuce and swiss chard by Halloween!  You may think it’s too late to plant your fall garden, but it really isn’t if you know which veggies to plant.  If you really miss the planting season try growing “green manure” for your spring garden… 

Dan Shapely with The DailyGreen offers these suggestions for a late fall garden.

It’s getting late in most of the country to plant a vegetable garden, but certain crops can thrive if planted late in the summer.

Radishes, basil,mustard greens and spinach each take as little as one month to mature, and can survive light frost.  Lettuce, Swiss chard, kale and collard greens take as few as 40 days, and the latter two can survive temperatures in the 20s.  Beets and cabbage take as much as two months to mature, but can survive temperatures in the 20s. Garlic can be planted now for harvest next summer.

Check with your local garden supply store, or agricultural extension service for advice for varietals that will survive best in your climate. Buy seedlings to give yourself a head start if it’s too late to plant from seeds.

If it’s too late to plant a garden for harvesting, the University of Minnesota Extension recommends planting “green manure”:

If it’s too late to plant a second crop of vegetables, you may want to plant “green manure” to keep the area weed-free, prevent soil erosion, and add organic matter to the soil. Green manures include legumes such as vetch, alfalfa, clover, and peas; grasses such as annual ryegrass, oats, winter rye, and winter wheat; and broadleaf plants such as rapeseed and buckwheat. Sow seed thickly to create a cover that won’t allow weeds to compete. Mow these crops down if they flower before they’re killed by frost, to prevent them from self-seeding and becoming weeds.

In late fall or early spring, turn dead plant material from green manures into the soil before sowing seed or planting seedlings. This is also the time to add fertilizer to the soil. If the green manure is one that doesn’t die over winter, wait about two weeks after you turn in the living plant material before seeding or transplanting your crops.

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