In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
Repeat this spring performance with hearty fall broccoli, planted now!
Time to Plan for Fall
The last thing that comes to mind as we roll into the heat of summer is autumn, but it's time to start planning the fall vegetable garden. I love having succulent spinach and lettuce in the cool of the fall, not to mention carrots, beets, snap beans, and even cucumbers to go with the last of the tomatoes.
To plan for fall, just count backward from your average first frost (around October 7 in southeastern Wisconsin) and look at the number of days to maturity for each vegetable you are trying to grow. Allow a couple of weeks of extra time since the days of fall are shorter. For example, peas mature in about 55 to 60 days. If you count backward from October 7, the absolute last planting date would be August 7. Allow a little extra time and plant them by August 1 and you should have peas in mid-fall.
My vining cucumbers are beginning to blossom, but I often lose plants to cucumber wilt transmitted by striped cucumber beetles. I love having cucumbers all season, so I make a second planting of bush cucs now. That way, if the others succumb, I will still have some bearing into the fall, especially because bush cucumbers usually bear earlier than vining types.
Summer squash are also just beginning to bear, but I know they usually succumb to vine borers before too long. I keep summer squash coming all summer and fall by putting in a second planting right about now. That way, when the others finally succumb, I have new ones ready to bear. And if they don't succumb, I find friends who want all my extra summer squash!
My pole beans are beginning to come on strong and will keep going for several weeks, but then they finish quickly. My family loves beans, so where my garlic will come out in a few weeks, I'll plant more bush beans to take over after the pole beans. That way, we'll have beans well into the fall.
In early August I will set up my trellis and make another planting of snow peas. Snow peas, in particular, are almost better in the fall, and all peas thrive in cool weather. They are even somewhat frost hardy so harvesting can continue even after frost.
If you love broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, this is the time to start transplants for the fall garden. Unfortunately, few garden centers find it profitable to sell transplants at this time of year so the only way to get transplants is to start your own. It's fairly easy to start seeds in a bed that can be covered with a cold frame later in fall. Once the seedlings are up, thin them and be ready with row covers since this is also an ideal time for cabbage butterflies.
Beets and Carrots
Beets and carrots are ideal fall crops, and midsummer is the time to plant. Just be sure to cover the seed bed with a mulch of some sort to keep the soil moist. Carrots have a hard time breaking through a soil crust after germinating, so you need to give them some help.
Carrots and beets can be left in the ground after frost and harvested during the fall. A thick mulch will keep them from freezing so you can continue harvesting until very hard freezes.
Greens are perhaps the easiest fall crop to grow, and they can be continually seeded up until a couple of weeks before our first frost. Most are frost hardy, and all are fairly fast-growing. Row covers, cloches, or a cold frame will extend their season even longer.
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