A Guide to Second Season Planting

kale and lettuce

Summer has flown by and it’s time to start thinking about your fall harvest plans. Unlike spring planting, which is dominated by tomatoes and summer squash, late-summer is a great time to focus on root vegetables, lettuces, and herbs.

It’s important to note that before you plant your second season vegetables, you should refresh the ground that you are planting. Turn over the soil and mix in more fertilizer so that your new plants will have the proper nutrition they need. Also, be sure to clear out stems and roots from last season that are no longer viable. For best results, after cleaning out your garden, give it a week or so to break down anything that you might have missed. That way, your new crop won’t be stifled early by last season’s leftovers.

Before planting your second crop, remember to re-consult the planting index for the area. You will want to know when the frost is likely to set in in order to give your crops ample time to reach maturity. Though most late-season vegetables can tolerate a little bit of frost, and are even said to be sweetened by the cold weather, harsh temperatures will kill even the hardiest of plants.

On the other hand, late-season plants can also be scorched by warm weather, which is why if the heat in your area is lasting too long, it may be a good idea to start seedlings indoors. Check the maturity dates of the vegetables you are hoping to grow to determine if this is necessary. And, if for some reason you planted too late or they are taking too long to mature, most gardening stores now sell row covers or grow tunnels to protect late bloomers.

Here are the main vegetables to consider when replanting in August or September:

Beans: August is a great time to plant any bean variety because the soil is already warm and broken in. They also have a quick seven- to 10-day turnover, which means that once they reach maturity, you will have a continuous crop until the frost begins. Snap beans are one of the most productive varieties because they benefit from cooling temperatures. As opposed to planting before the weather warms, beans sweeten and ripen better when started in warmer conditions and then are slowly cooled.

Root Vegetables (including beets, radishes, turnips, potatoes, carrots, and brussels sprouts): As you might have guessed, since most of the plant is underground, these vegetables can withstand quite a bit of cold and frost. Carrots and beets can actually be harvested into the winter if you cover them with a thick layer, around six to eight inches, of mulch.

The Cabbage Family (including kale and collard greens): Kale and cabbage are incredibly hearty, which is why they are great choices for late-season planting. Able to withstand temperatures as low as 20 degrees, these plants will produce late into the season.

Lettuces (including swiss chard, mustard greens, and spinach): These three varieties of lettuce are leafier but, as opposed to early-season options, can resist a light frost. Spinach has the fastest turnaround, but also will be the first to wilt and die if frozen. Swiss chard and mustard greens benefit from late-season planting because the cooling temperatures prevent the crop from tasting bitter. Instead, you may have smaller leaves, but they will be more tender and tasty. If picked early, you can also continue to replant well into the fall.

Broccoli: Broccoli and cauliflower are probably the easiest to grow and, if using starter plants instead of seeds, can be planted into October.

Herbs: It may seem odd, but basil, cilantro, fennel, chives, oregano, and a variety of different herbs can withstand a bit of cold. Since they reach maturity quickly, ready to harvest in only a month, planting them in August or September means they won’t have to fight off too much frost. These plants are also great to start outside and then transition indoors for winter growing.

Garlic: Unlike the rest of the suggestions, garlic is actually planted for a spring harvest. In order to get the biggest and best garlic bulbs the following season, most gardeners plant the bulbs in September and allow them to spend the winter in the ground. Though you won’t immediately reap the benefits, planting garlic this far ahead will be well worth it next July.

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