Late Summer and Fall Gardening
Successive planting of vegetable gardens can provide bountiful harvests until early winter. This is overlooked by gardeners as they reap the rewards of their spring planting during the dog days of summer, but haven’t planned to garden later into the year. However, careful planning of crop rotations could result in a prolonged harvesting season with late summer and fall gardening.
Planning for an ideal crop rotation often begins with the first seeds sown in early spring. Crops generally have a days-to-maturity factor that indicates when a harvesting window could occur. This days to maturity factor can be used to stagger plantings for a longer growing season e.g. seeds sown in late April with a 90 days-to-maturity factor should bear harvestable fruit by early August. Once mature plants are no longer productive, a new late season crop could be sown in their location to prolong the season. Start planning for this type of flow early on by grouping plants with like days to maturity together in blocks and having a tiered system of fast maturing plants transitioning to slow maturing plants. This way you can seamlessly transition through your garden with new plantings as older plants begin to fizzle.
Second plantings should begin with plants with longer days to maturity, however, consideration must also be given to plants that are sensitive to cold/frost. Unless you are planning for an additional rotation of crops, then begin the second planting with those plants that have the longest days to maturity or that are not cold tolerant. The average first frost date for Annapolis, Maryland is October 20th. This date should be used as the finish line for most late season gardens around Annapolis, but always check for your actual first frost date as they change by geographical location.
Plants to consider when fall gardening:
Bean: 75-90 days to maturity from seed. Bush beans are preferred in the Fall because they mature early and have higher yields prior to the first frost.
Beet: 50-90 days to maturity from seed. Beets grown in the fall tend to have stronger colors and higher sugar content than those grown in the spring.
Broccoli: 50-75 days to maturity from starter plant. Broccoli plants thrive in cooler temperature. Some varieties are known to tolerate temperatures as low as 28 degrees Fahrenheit.
Brussel Sprouts: 80-90 days to maturity from starter plant. Time your growing on phase when prolonged temperatures are not above the 70’s.
Cabbage: 80-90 days to maturity from starter plant. Harvest after a couple of light frosts. Frost enhances the flavor of some cabbage cultivars.
Carrot: 50-90 days to maturity from seed. Carrots can tolerate a light frost, but plan on sowing 2-3 months before the first frost for best results.
Cauliflower: 50-75 days to maturity from starter plant. Cauliflower is tricky because it needs growing on temperatures in the 60’s to form a full head. Higher temperatures prevent a large head from forming.
Collards: 75-90 days to maturity from seed. Collards thrive in cooler temperatures. Cold hardy varieties have a sweeter flavor after a frost.
Cucumber: 50-90 days to maturity from seed. Cucumber seeds need warm temperatures to germinate. Sow early to ensure enough time for maturity before the first frost.
Green Onion: 20-30 days to maturity from sets. Fast and easy to grow. Can be left in the soil after a frost.
Kale: 55-75 days to maturity from seeds. Transplants can be started in June/July for Fall planting and faster maturity. Winter hardy cultivars are available with plants hardy to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Kohlrabi: 50-90 days to maturity from seed. Easy to grow and fast to mature make Kohlrabi a great addition to a Fall garden.
Lettuce: 45-60 days to maturity from seed. Leafy varieties are ready for harvest before heading lettuces. Romaines and butterhead lettuces can be harvested as soon as mature leaves begin to form.
Peas: 50-90 days to maturity from seed. Peas mature quickly once flowers form.
Radish: 45-60 days to maturity from seed. Radishes mature quickly. Winter varieties that are cold tolerant are also available.
Spinach: 45-60 days to maturity from seed. Smaller leaves tend to have a sweeter flavor. Remove leaves before they reach maturity.
Squash: 50-90 days to maturity from seed. Sow early for a Fall garden. Summer squash thrives in warm temperatures (70-90 degrees Fahrenheit). Select early varieties from best results for Fall gardens.
Turnip: 45-60 days to maturity from seed. Seeds should be started when soil temperatures are warm, but roots grow best when soil temperatures begin to cool. Sow in early August-September.