Plant fall vegetables now

Plant vegetables in July?  Yes, you heard right, now is the time to start planting fall vegetables if you still have the perseverance to keep the garden going.

Many spring cool season crops bolt (go to seed) by early summer due to higher daytime temperatures. Bolting ends the growth of cool season plants and many gardeners wish to grow cool season crops again in the fall to enjoy production until freezing temperatures arrive. Fall vegetable gardening does have a few advantages. 

Vegetables that mature in the cool, crisp days of fall are often better flavored than those maturing in the hot, dry days of late spring and early summer.  Seeds will germinate rapidly, so you will have crops up and growing in just a few days – compared to several weeks in the spring. Many vegetables can also be left in the garden and used as needed even into the winter months.

What to plant

Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, leaf lettuce, spinach, radishes, beets, carrots, kale, turnips and Brussels sprouts make excellent fall crops. Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are usually seeded by mid-to late July.   The other fall crops can be directly seeded into the garden now and into early August.  The calendar below is a nice visual representation of when fall crops can be planted.

Many gardeners struggle with getting a good crop of green bean in the summer, so why not also try a planting of fall green beans to make up for any poor summer production.  Plant green beans again now for another opportunity for to harvest a fall crop for fresh eating or preserving.

Getting plants started

The trick to fall gardening is establishing plants in summertime heat.  Seeds will need a little extra attention to get started properly.  Plant seeds just a little deeper than you would in the spring to provide better moisture and temperature control.   All seed requires adequate daily moisture until it emerges, and a light cover of straw or compost over the row will help prevent soil crusting and improve emergence.

As far as soil preparation is concerned, gardeners don’t need to get too excited about deep tillage for a fall garden.  Lightly work the soil enough to establish a seedbed and reserve deep tillage for later in the fall. If you have some residue from a previous crop you can cut and remove it or simply chop the residue with a lawn mower and lightly till the soil surface after the residue has had a chance to dry.

Fertilizer may be needed for fall crops to ensure maximum plant growth and production. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, lettuce, mustards, spinach, green beans and turnip greens will require about 4 tablespoons of a high-nitrogen all-purpose garden fertilizer per 10 feet of row. It should be sprinkled along the row about 2 weeks after transplanting, or 4 weeks after sowing the seed.

Fall vegetable gardening can be much more pleasant and enjoyable than fighting the summer heat and in Kansas you may find the fall garden can be more productive than you ever imagined.

This fall gardening publication from Sedgwick County Extension is a great guide to fall gardens in Kansas